With limited knowledge in culinary arts, Hodaih Chepchirchir was determined to make it in the world of catering. Her passion for cooking began while growing up in Nairobi’s Kahawa Sukari suburb.
“I could cook my family sumptuous meals that would leave them salivating for more,” says Ms Chepchirchir, 25 who now owns Chepchikoni, a food enterprise that runs two outlets in Roysambu and Industrial Area in Nairobi.
Hers is a tale of how passion meets business.
Although this is what she has always wanted to do all her life, it was not easy starting out. For starters she faced opposition from her parents who wanted her to pursue a different career path.
To somehow meet the expectations from her parents, she enrolled for a degree in Commerce (market option) at the Kenyatta University (KU).
“The minute I was done with my undergraduate studies, I never looked for a job in the field but instead began cooking at home for fun. Day by day, my passion grew,” she says.
She also did not have capital, but as she bid her time waiting for an opportunity to launch the business, she would put her passion into practice through various avenues. Sometimes she would cook at restaurants just to hone her cooking skills.
“I would also cook at home and sell the food to various clients in offices and homes to sustain myself,” she says.
After putting aside little capital, she decided to plunge proper into the enterprise world.
“With a Sh15,000 from my savings, I bought few utensils like pans, a cooking gas, and food item and spices, among others.”
When she started out, the venture was mainly delivery-based as she was cooking from home.
The demand for her food kept growing and soon it would outstrip supply as the list of customers whose appetite have been whetted by her culinary skills kept increasing.
The business would soon need other premises than just her home. So in July last year, together with her partner, Ahmed Omar Hassan, she opened a restaurant in Roysambu on the outskirts of Nairobi, with an initial investment of Sh400,000, which was their savings.
The duo went on an aggressive marketing campaign on social media, and customers start knocking on their door in droves.
“It didn’t take long for the business to pick up thanks to a multi-pronged marketing strategies that we initiated on our various social media handles. We scaled up from home cooking to a restaurant,” she adds.
The Roysambu branch serves parts of Parkland, Thika Road and Nairobi’s Central Business District (CBD).
Her clients include students, bachelors, offices, clubs and companies. Some of the delicacies she specialises in include pilau,beef, chicken, chips and chapati.
“My Roysambu branch serves students predominantly from Kenyatta University and United States International University (USIU),” she says.
With the rapid growth of the Roysambu branch, the duo has expanded the business into Industrial Area in Nairobi.
“The area being full of offices and industries we thought we could attract more clientele by delivering them food or serving them from our restaurant,” she adds.
Ms Chepchirchir says her business has employed seven staff — four in Roysambu and three in Industrial Area. Her food prices range between Sh200 and Sh350, and the meal comes with an array of offers. “If for example, you come with more than three people, we offer platter services that range between Sh650 and Sh1,000,” she says.
One of the key selling points for the business is delivering the meals to the doorstep of customers.
“We deliver food at a fee. This has helped us to attract clients from every corner of the city,” she says.
Her commerce degree is not all that worthless as she says she is applying what she learnt in classroom in the business.
“It (degree) armed me with insightful business Knowledge and accounting skills, that I am now applying in the day to day running of my business,” she says.
The entrepreneur advises young people, especially university graduates, to find something to do instead of staying idle.
She says it is no longer easy to get a job and the only way out is to be imaginative and come up with ideas that can be turned into thriving business.
The youths, she adds, should think more on job creations rather than rely on the government or private sector for employment.
Ms Chepchirchir says since she started her business she has never posted a turnover of less than Sh100,000 per month even when the business is bad.
“I have now grown financially independent through my enterprise. Besides, I have interacted with people who have taught me to be a better person,” she says.
She urges budding entrepreneurs to focus on partnerships to widen their scope and bolster their capital base.
“You may be good at something but bad at something and that is when you friend or partner could chip in and help you,” she adds.
She has great plans for the venture. “ My aim is to have a bigger branch,” she says.