Aisha Shuaibu co-owns Waffle Stop, a restaurant/café in Abuja. She is passionate about using her experiences in business to motivate her peers and younger ones on the come up to achieve similar, greater things.
She shares how she started her business with Correspondent.
FROM HAVING AN IDEA TO STARTING YOUR BUSINESS, SHARE YOUR JOURNEY WITH US
It was a back and forth process of converting my class project idea to reality through research, consultations with friends and business acquaintances and starting small with very little capital.
WHY DO YOU LOVE WHAT YOU DO? THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER BUSINESSES YOU COULD HAVE EXPLORED, WHY THIS?
I love how much our business stands out in a market that honestly still has plenty room for new, creative ideas. The food business is particularly more challenging than anyone would believe. However, your business model is yours alone and you have the power to manipulate it as you learn on the job. I love the new challenges I stand up to everyday because I don’t rest well till they have been sorted. The idea itself wasn’t preordained per say but once it came to me, I really wanted it to work.
AT WHAT POINT DID YOU KNOW BEYOND ALL DOUBT THAT THIS IS GOING TO WORK?
As soon as I received an email with the logo I drew (quite poorly – I can’t draw). It looked so professional and I knew immediately we had something.
HOW DID YOU RAISE THE CAPITAL TO START YOUR BUSINESS, ESPECIALLY WITH THE HIGH COST OF RUNNING BUSINESSES IN NIGERIA?
I saved up what I could on my own but what really got things moving was a contribution I received at a time when I knew exactly what to do with it and I paid it back not too long after.
HOW SOON DID YOU START MAKING PROFITS?
We broke-even in less than 8 months.
BRILLIANT IDEAS DON’T ALWAYS MEAN GREAT SALES, HOW HAS IT BEEN MARKETING YOUR SERVICES?
Having been in Abuja for most of my life, my business partner and I went to school here and have also been involved in several other businesses in the past, which overtime helped us establish a deep network. Never doubt the benefits of a strong support network and the power of word of mouth in a small city. Social media and quality branding helps a lot but word of mouth keeps people coming.
AS A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER YOU CAN’T DO EVERYTHING, WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE HIRING STAFF AND BUILDING YOUR TEAM?
We operate everyday so it is hard to train separately. We have however successfully sustained the same people from the beginning and when extra hands were needed, they learned on the job under eagle eyes. Even the older staff still learn everyday because Nigerians can never learn enough about consistency. You have to inspect and check and remind and occasionally shout to keep things moving right.
YOUR GREATEST SKILL/STRENGTHS THAT HAVE BEEN PARTICULARLY BEEN OF HELP IN STARTING AND RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS?
Both my partner and I are constantly working on new business ideas. Personally, I think I’m just a good sales woman. I enjoy branding and marketing very much and believe our business sells happiness more than anything.
DID YOU HAVE TO GET A FORMAL TRAINING OR QUALIFICATION TO BE ABLE TO DO THIS?
Business school taught me textbook business. Experience teaches you reality business. You don’t really start learning till you put those theories into practice.
YOU HAVE BEEN RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS FOR SOME TIME NOW, WHAT DO YOU KNOW NOW THAT YOU WISHED YOU HAD KNOWN BEFORE YOU STARTED?
Everything from the past is the reason for the present. I don’t think I would change much. I would have probably just prioritised certain things earlier to achieve better results but none of that matters now.
ANY LIFE EXPERIENCE THAT HAS PARTICULARLY PREPARED YOU DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY FOR WHAT YOU DO NOW?
I have had to adjust a lot of my personal routines to suit my work life. You make sacrifices every now and again because you are in the process of shaping your future. If I could pass anything on I’d say believe in self-discipline and be your toughest critic.
CHANGE CAN BRING OUT A PART OF US WE NEVER KNEW EXISTED, WHAT NEW THINGS HAVE YOU DISCOVERED ABOUT YOURSELF IN THE COURSE OF STARTING AND RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS?
That I’m stronger than I thought and it is possible to be a morning person after years of being nocturnal by nature.
THE GREATEST BUSINESS ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED AND BY WHO?
To keep doing what I’m doing because my determination can only take me higher. Repeated quite often by people I respect around me.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE MOST ESSENTIAL SKILLS FOR WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS ESPECIALLY IN NIGERIA?
Confidence should be your morning coffee. Wake up, look in the mirror, take a sip and say “lets go!”. I believe being able to hold a conversation is an important quality as well. Be bold, convincing and fearless. We really are superwomen. Now tell yourself and go show the world!