Africa

62 years-old Woman Who Still Cooks for Money

62-year-old-woman-still-cooks-for-money1Hajia Olaaton Komolafe Ajiboye is a restaurant operator in the Kogi State capital, Lokoja. Many people have worked under her tutelage and thereafter established their own restaurant businesses. In this report, she tells how she has fared in her almost 40 year old cooking career which she started with N2.50 as initial capital. “With 20 people on my pay roll, I am helping to fight poverty in Nigeria,” Hajia Olaaton Komolafe Ajiboye said. She operates a restaurant named Moremi in Lokoja town. The popularity of the restaurant owned by 62 year-old Hajia Ajiboye has grown over the years as it now competes with other big brands in food business, such as Mr. BIGGS, Tiolowanile, and Missiti restaurants. The now successful business started off pretty humbly. It is now close to 40 years since she established it in Lokoja. Hajia Ajiboye, who hails from Offa in Kwara State, came to settle in Lokoja in the 70s to start restaurant business and today she is a proud owner of a two storey building with two restaurants to her credit. She told Daily Trust “I started this business in the early 70s in Lokoja and I was selling under a tree because there was no money to rent a shop. “I was using under trees so as to provide shades for those coming to eat. Generally, I started from under the tree to a batcher and from batcher to my own building. This was how I started but now with about 20 staff on my pay roll, I am fighting poverty.” She has been in the business for over 36 years. In her words: “I started by selling a plate of food for 10k, 20k and 50k depending on the quantity of food one required. We were not much in the business then.” She said her hard work, determination and resilient kept her on the business till now. She said, “When I started, it was difficult as there were days I would only have four customers but with time people started coming to eat from me and that was how my breakthrough in the business came. “But now things have changed because a plate of food now goes for between N300 and N700. It has to change because I am no longer selling under a tree but in my own building which I built from proceeds from the restaurant business.” She used to have three branches in Abuja but the demolition of unauthorised structured in Abuja during the era of Nasiru El-rufai as FCT minister left them all affected. She then moved to consolidate the Lokoja office where she has two offices. The successful restaurateur however complained of dwindling sales due to the influx of many restaurant operators in Lokoja and the “problem of casual workers who are not willing to stay on the business. You would employ some people today but in three or four days, they will abandon the work, making you to still look for other people,” he said. The business is no longer lucrative, she complained. She said after deducting all the expenses incurred in the course of the business which includes payment of salaries, “I will be left with about N50,000 or above at the end of the month.” That was why I said it is no longer as blissful as before due to much competition, she emphasized. “The patronage I get is because I have already made a mark in the business. I started this business with N250k as my capital in the 70s.” Hajia Ajiboye no longer takes active part in the business anymore as her children are gradually taking over. She says, “I always come here once in a while to see how they are faring. I have about 20 people working for me in my restaurants and the payment varies depending on the job you are doing and her paid daily.” Those working in the kitchen are receiving N400 per day while those serving food are paid N250 per day. On running the business on loan facilities, Moremi said she has not collected loan from any financial institution in recent time. “I collected N1,000 loan from a bank when Kogi was still under Kwara State which I paid back before the stipulated time for repayment. I was to pay back in three months time but I could not sleep because of the loan and so I just returned it to them, yet I still paid N70 which was the interest charged for that three months. Moremi called on other women operating restaurant businesses to be tolerant, saying with perseverance they could achieve their desires. Her Philosophy is that “Customers are always right and must be treated as kings.”

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