Bash, jowo bami gbe abo ti strawberries yen wa. (Bash, help me bring that bowl containing the strawberries)

She continues to cut the kiwi fruits in half and adjusts her little girl with her free left hand. Looking forlorn and tired, she surged on as little Darasimi watched and played with her mum’s hair.  

Oluwabukola was in her habitat and she was the boss trying to make a thousand things happen without much help. 

This is the story of the Nigerian foodpreneur. 

The Nigerian woman who strives to earn her daily 2k from a food business which grows increasingly unprofitable due to the saturation of new businesses in the market.

Food has always remained a booming business in Nigeria and across the world. The popular quip, ‘man must whack’ signifies the importance that food carries within our society. Even when we seem to be totally down on luck, we always seem to remember the road that leads to the kitchen, or the number of our favorite food plug.

Now, why the immense saturation of the food space? 

In a country where the unemployment index continues to rage high, many youths are turning to food businesses as a means to remain productive and avoid being labelled ‘lazy’ by their president and some members of the older generation. Take an excursion into a renowned culinary school like Red Dish Chronicles, Gbagada on a monday morning and witness firsthand the growing numbers of students, enthusiastic to begin their journey into the food industry. The race to affix the title ‘chef’ to one’s name is alive and the resultant effects are obvious: saturation of the food business space.

Occasionally, Bukola checks her phone to confirm the reception of the alert she expects from the client that placed an order. As she sweats and is visibly stressed due to the strain of lack of workers, I watch and ponder if the stress she passes through is commensurate with the profit she makes. Being in the food industry space for a while and having followed opinion leaders like Amenze Okeke (Professor of Food), I realized that many foodpreneurs do not make enough profit in comparison to the efforts they put in. Factors like bad food costing, deep reticence to charge according to their worth, and intense competition from foodpreneurs who constantly underprice their menu are popular reasons that has made profiting a tad bit difficult for foodpreneurs. 

It is bad, trust me, the situation is bad. 

On a typical morning, you can scroll across your social media feed and observe some pitiable psychological blackmail techniques used by foodpreneurs in place of good marketing strategies. Captions like: 

Please buy from me today.

Come and buy what I am selling.

Patronize us or we will go hungry o.

I think deeply about the strategy foodpreneurs like Bukola takes to stay afloat in such a world and the answer comes from what I have seen her do a thousand times.

Bash, what do you think we can add to the chicken marinade to make it more flavourful? She asks as she starts to spoon the cream cheese mix into the bowl, creating another layer for the mixed truffle. I suggest the Garam Masala mix along with a few spices. She objects and suggests that another flavor profile would be best for her clients. 

Her goal is to improve her stock among current clients and improve the reach of her foods. To achieve this, innovation is the constant aim on her mind, even while feeling her baby tug at her repeatedly. 
Jesu ranmilowo o. (Jesus help me). Bukola says as she places the mixed berry truffle in the fridge and leaves it to set, hoping and praying to God that the power company leaves the light till the next day. A fluctuating power supply routine for that night would leave her with wasted efforts and a super-pissed Nigerian client who could possibly decide to ruin her name via a viral social media tirade.

This article was written by Nkwuka Kosi aka Bashorun.

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