Hodiah Chepchirchir is a food-preneur and the founder of ChepChikoni. She runs three restaurants in Nairobi which specialize in Swahili delicacies. She is 27.
I started my restaurant business in 2017. I started it as a house call cook. My capital was Sh. 50, which I used as transport fare to my first client’s place. As demand for my house call cooking services increased, I began cooking food from home and delivering to customers at their homes and offices.
In July 2017, I found a strategic business partner and opened my first restaurant in Nairobi. The restaurant broke even after three months. The house calls and home cooking services had been providing instant income and profit. I also have a joint in industrial area and one near USIU.
My day usually begins at 9am. If I don’t have any outside errands, I report straight to either of my restaurants. I come to your house, cook your meals for a whole week, label it for you so you just pick and warm. Normally, my day revolves around taking stock, bookkeeping, checking customer feedback on our social media platforms, and a bit of cooking.
On a normal day, the period between noon and 3pm is the busiest. Most of our customers come in at this time. On most days, I leave my workplace at between 3pm and 4pm, after our rush hour. I usually head straight home apart from the days when I have pending business errands in town.
My business has grown the most through referrals. To sustain this growth and attract more customers, I take feedback on the services we offer very seriously. I will spend as much time as is necessary listening to our customers and making the required adjustments. I have learned that a business is only as strong as the founding reputation that customers lay.
I have had some strange moments too. I recall back when I did house calls. Sometimes, the calls would come from unmarried men. One day, I got a call from this gentleman. I went over to his place and got myself busy in the kitchen. Then suddenly, his girlfriend came in.
She was not aware that he had hired a cook for the day. She thought I was there for romantic reasons. She flew off the handle and almost caused a huge fight. It took a huge toll trying to get her to understand that I was a professional house call cook and had no extra social liaisons with her man.
I am working towards opening a chain of restaurants under my brand name ChepChikoni. I’m hoping to do 40 restaurants before I turn 40. I also aspire to start a mentorship program for young aspiring entrepreneurs.
Most people don’t think it is possible to start a business with very little capital. This is not true and it is something I’d wish to correct through a mentorship program.
I am proof that one can start from scratch with as little as fifty or a hundred shillings. Meeting new and interesting people from diverse backgrounds and cultures is one of the golden opportunities that my line of work accords me. It is always special when these meet ups with customers convert into friendships and point of business referrals.
One such meet up took place sometime back when a customer from California, US, came in. He said he had heard about my restaurant from a friend and wanted to savour what we offered. His order was simple; ugali and omena. But the interaction we had ignited an engagement that has since turned into a friendship with business strings.