…there is favour around food business
…Nigerians can survive without government
Elizabeth Sodipo is a study in resilience. She is not the type that would easily give up on her dreams and vision. After series of fruitless attempts to secure admission to Obafemi Awolowo University after her secondary education she opted for DOF Catering Institute for want of something to do and because she could not stand the shame of staying at home when all her mates had secured admission to the university. Some were about rounding off their first degree. The fear of what people would say informed her decision to study catering. But as God would have it, catering has now become the game changer in her life.
Though she eventually read Business Administration at the University of Lagos, her career path would not have been glorious without her exposure to catering.
Now she trains caterers, consults for organisations and does outdoor catering services. Her client base are majorly the people of the middle class though she reaches out to all strata of life and has largely become the answer to the dream of many young people by offering them free training. She is one of the facilitators of the free skill training programme organised for young people by Daystar Christian Centre. Her passion and desire is to impact young people and put them on a sound pedestal.
But she never had it smooth. She recalled, “When I left secondary school in 2002 I could not imagine myself going into catering. I had hoped I would get admission to the OAU but because I was already a laughing stock I had to go to DOF Catering Institute where I had a diploma in catering to save my face. While in DOF I sponsored myself at the initial stage because my parents could not afford the school fees. I would stay by the side of the school gate to sell food to people to make some money. It was the money I used to help myself. But when the proprietor of the school heard that I was always entering the hostel late because of the extra effort I was putting in to sponsor myself, he decided to adopt me and paid my school fees. That was how I stopped cooking to make ends meet while in school.
“My school fees was N250k and he adopted me for two years. I was living with him. He saw me through the school and he got me a job at the Lagos Airport hotel. Later I began to think of staying on my own. Somebody gave me a shop where I started. I sold edibles and began to brand myself. I grew the passion. There is always favour around food business. When you are in catering you can’t be broke and hungry.”
Though she went to the business out of frustration, Sodipo who has made a fortune from the business says “You can’t just go into catering business without learning it. There is continental and local dishes and a wide of variety too numerous to mention. There is also the nutritional angle to cooking which is also being learnt. The caterer has to know all these to succeed”
She stated further, “When you are not selling your skill you are not yet in business. You need to know the entrepreneurial part of the business and know how to attract your client. I was initially selling to everyone but later I had to segment. I sell to everybody though I now sell primarily to the middle class. Beyond that I respond to the needs of the needy and the low rung of the market and I also run free training.”
Sodipo who is the Chief Executive Office of EJ Treasures said she began the outfit
in 2007. “We do catering. We consult. We train. I have trained a lot of people. I have my own platform. We train house wives on how to cook. We also train bachelors too who desire to know how to cook.
She noted that the last 12 years of training people have been quite fulfilling. “People are ready to learn but a lot have problem of funds. I remember how I got my own training so I help those who don’t have money and make up with those who can afford to pay.” But the joy according to her is that there is always something to do for the caterer. A caterer can’t be out of job except the caterer is lazy or lacks idea. People will always eat. Just recently the Industrial Training Funds asked me to send 10 of my students that are ready to work. I don’t think people should complain of no job. I am fulfilling purpose. There are over 100 products and things that can be done to make money. Cocktail, small chops, events management, cake making e.t.c Food is a constant. People who used to sell food many years ago are still selling.”
The beauty of catering according to her is that one could begin with a small amount. “You can start with as small as N5000. You can create your own market. From Monday to Thursday is my training period. If am not training I am out there for an event. You can suffer loss at times as a caterer but it’s not something that one should be afraid of. Every business has its down side.”
She counseled that anybody who wants to go into the business must endeavour to get some formal or informal training.
Commenting on the Daystar free training, she says, “Daystar trains over 1000 people three times a year. In the last training we had over 21 skills that were being taught. But people still have challenge with getting money to buy materials for practical. Every week I give free training. There is a boy who used to hawk bread. I persuaded him to come for the free training. His name is Samuel. Now he does not want to hawk bread again because he has been doing well with catering. He never knew he could do it until he began the training. If his life can be transformed I believe many other young people can make a fortune from catering. But beyond that there are lots of vocations out there that people could key into it.”
She noted that God has been her source of supply and strength adding however that event management is a big industry. “It has global implication. The average hotel employs over 700 staff. Only a few organisations can accommodate such large portion of staff. The event management business is ever growing but one has to key into it to be able to benefit from it.”
She reasoned that depending on government could sometimes be frustrating. “In Nigeria we are our own local government. We can survive without government. I have been hearing about government since I was small but nothing from them. If you close your eyes, face God and your business you will see things change for you. There is growth everywhere. It can be frustrating if you complain and look up to government.”
She reasoned that many get frustrated because they don’t have relationship with God. “I also discovered that people are lazy and greedy. They are not living their reality. If I have food on my table, I am okay. I have never been desperate. What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world?”
She counseled further, “Young people must have something doing. You need to get doing something that is what God would bless. Get a skill get a knowledge. And stop complaining.”
Sodipo could be reached on: +234-805-789-4441
Story by: Gbenga Osinaike