Thursday, August 26, 2010

From Hawking Rice, This Woman Now Owns A Multi-million-naira Restaurant

She wasn’t always a success. Infact, this genial lady’s life was not laced with sweet reveries or the pleasant memories of a person born into affluence. Rather, like most Nigerian women struggling to survive with children, Bola Akinlawon braced all odds to rise from the valley of poverty to emerge a success in the culinary world.

For people living or conducting business in Oshodi, Mafoluku and beyond, the name ‘Native Cuisine’ might not ring a bell. But that of ‘Mama Sunday Amala Spot’ would immediately make many stomachs rumble. In her modest restaurant where local delicacies simmer ceaselessly on the fire for the delight of customers, no hour is too late to patronize the spot for a plate of pounded yam, amala (yam flour) and ewedu with gbegiri, a local bean sauce.

The success story of this woman, who went into the food business with just N1000 in 1980, did not start in Lagos. It can be traced back to her inauspicious upbringing in Ghana where she grew up with her siblings. Bola’s background instilled in her the determination to wrestle free from the clutches of poverty.
“My parents were very hardworking and they made us realise that hardwork pays better than laziness. My father told me that a lazy woman would suffer in the hands of her husband. I did not want to suffer, that is why I acted fast,” she said.

Recalling how she started selling food to students at No. 39, Olaiya Street in Mafoluku, Oshodi, she noted that she used to place a table atop pieces of planks sitting across a gutter.
I started by selling food to students on top of the gutter. I would cook rice and beans, and set my table outside our compound in the morning. Later, there was an opening for a shop nearby and I took it. I was in the shop for 15 year before I got another one close to Mafoluku Junction by Airport Road,” she stated.

From selling just rice and beans to students and residents, Bola diversified into other local dishes and before long, her clientele list grew to include bankers, legislators and top government officials, among others.
“It was from there that my business really grew. From cooking one goat daily for sale, I moved to preparing four or five, depending on the patronage. Within that period, I also expanded my shop and enlisted more hands to help in the business,” she explained.
She practically deprived herself of luxuries associated with women.” I started saving even though it was not so convenient. My children too understood my ambition and supported me by not being too demanding,” she said.

However, at the point when people thought the sweat of this Oyo State-born businesswoman would come to nought, her dream became crystallized. Today, Bola owns a multi-million-naira restaurant that would make many popular eatery owners in town green with envy. The place was officially opened for business recently with top government functionaries, politicians, businessmen, bankers and other customers in attendance.

But for this amiable woman, it pays to wait on God to fulfil one’s aspiration. This approach, she stressed, paid off for her at the end of the day.
“I believe that everybody’s day would break one day but at different times. For some, it might be in the morning, while for others, it could be in the night. Mine happened when I least expected it. I cried to God one day when some Omo-onile (land owners) came to tell me that they wanted to give their land to a developer. They gave me a time to vacate my shop. I did not know God was preparing something big for me,” she told Daily Sun.

“After searching for a shop for several months, I made up my mind to relocate to Ghana where I grew up. At the end of the day, I left everything to God. One day, God showed me a duplex and asked me to look for the owner. When I was told how much the place would cost, I was scared. I asked God where I would get so much money to pay for the place. God surprised me and this is the testimony I have to show for it today.”
She recalls that the support of her husband and children saw her through many difficult times, especially the period she thought her business would die naturally.
The new eatery, Native Cuisine Catering Services, would provide satisfying taste of traditional meals with class to customers in Lagos, she said. She also has plans to expand to other states.
This enterprising woman believes that hard work for every woman should be the only means to an end. To her, indulging in promiscuity for survival is a sin and a lame excuse for any woman.

She has a parting word for married women who believe in being full-time housewives.
“If a woman does not work but rely on her husband for everything, the tendency that her husband would look for a hardworking woman to take care of him later on in life is very high. For the sake of your children and the future, resist the temptation to become a lazy wife,” she urged.