Mrs. Modupe Lawani is a caterer, sew mistress and supplier of soft drinks. Despite being a graduate, she has a strong passion to help the youth she sees loitering around. Not only does she want to be an employer of labour, she also wants to make an impact on the lives of the younger generation.
I did my National Certificate of Education (NCE) at Federal College of Education (FCE) Akoka, Lagos and my Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Ado Ekiti (UNAD), now Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti, where I read home economics, (catering, fashion design, and crafting).
Actually, I was formally teaching, but later stopped due to stress, distance and my children. Because I needed to get to the office on time, I will have to take them to school in the morning before going to work. They were usually the first people to get to their school and the last set of people to leave the school because I will have to close from work before going to pick them. I wasn’t feeling too comfortable with that, and at times, I do get trapped up in the traffic-jam and get to my office late. My employer started complaining, at a time, they started increasing my workload, despite my not complaining, they just woke up one day and say I should stop working with them.
Reason for renting a shop
The available jobs around us were not paying well. They were the types of jobs that the employers will use you, and by the end of the month, you will not be able to buy anything meaningful for yourself for from the peanut they are paying. When you are paid about N15, 000 a month; from there you try to settle some family matters, by the end of the day, nothing is left. So, I just took my time to look for this shop and I started something small in it. I have been here now for one year.
What gave you the confidence
Actually, that has always been my dream. I have always had a dream of opening a big supermarket; having a place where I can be sowing with people working under me, taking care of wedding/birthday cakes. This business is still very small now, but I know it will grow more than this. At least, initially, when I started the egg-roll business, the egg-roll was not forming very well and I wondered what could be responsible. I had to meet with one egg-roll seller and explained the situation to her, she put me through. I just went there twice, thereafter, I started doing it on my own and you won’t believe that now, even before I open my shop early in the morning, people will already be waiting to buy. Like this morning, as I was making it, they were buying, none of it stayed beyond 10 minutes before they finished it all. If I had made more, they would have finished it, it is just that I was tired.
Academic knowledge/practical experience
You know it is not everything that you do at school. We didn’t do anything on egg-roll in school. Also, it depends on your practical experience, even with that, you still need someone to put you through.
Progress so far
Initially, besides baking cakes for people during weddings and birthdays, which I did even before renting this shop, I started the shop proper with just drinks. That drinks business discouraged me a lot because some of the drinks were almost expiring in the shop. I had to start rushing to some of my church members, pleading with them to look for buyers I can supply to. They were the ones that helped me to sell them; coupled with the ones we drank our self. I also decided to add some other snacks to the business. Then people started demanding for biscuits, soaps, indomie, groundnut and some other things, I added them all to it.
Actually, the catering aspect would have been very profitable if the demand for them were high, but things like cake has little demand, so you cannot depend on it solely. Most people don’t even know that I do all those things. It is only a few people that know I do those things, they also help me to advertise that I do bake. It also depends on how much you have. I can come down to as low as N5, 000. I work with people’s budget.
How do you attract attention to your shop
I have an idea of reconstructing this place, but its money that is presently holding me back. I need a signboard and banner that will state all the things I do. Once all those things are available, I surely believe that things will change.
Significant difference ever since
There are still challenges because, now I am the only one here, but I actually have time for my kids. Once they come back from school, they will be here with me. We will do their home works together and once it is between 6.00 and 6.30pm, I will be home to prepare dinner so that my children can eat before sleeping. If I have a place to go to and my husband is around, I will plead with him to stay in the shop for me and I will rush down. If I need to go to the market, I do so very early in the morning before coming back to do the baking.
The first one is light, you know I supply and sell drinks, once the light is not stable, our drinks will not be cold, and people will not buy. They will tell you it is not cold.
The second one is the local government people who are always coming every year to tax us in the name of permit. But the amount written on the permit receipt is usually lower than the real amount of money we pay. For example, I paid N4,500 for this place last year, the amount of money written on the two receipts issued to me is N3,000 and N500, making N3,500.
Your impression of loans and grants
I will only collect loan if there is no interest attached to it. I am scared of all these interests stuff. I even discouraged my husband from collecting because my mind will always be there. As you are running around to pay back the main capital, you are also running around to pay the interest. In fact the creditors are usually more concerned about the interest than the capital itself. I don’t want anything that will give me unnecessary stress. Assuming I borrowed the money with which to buy those drinks at that initial time, my enemy would have had hypertension.
I told you I have a dream of opening a big shop, with people working under me. I want to be an employer of labour, at least, let me contribute to the society in my own little way. Let people be collecting salary from me too. I want people to come around and learn from me. I have a passion for all these youths that are loitering about. At times when I see them, I feel so bad. At times, you even see them fighting over nothing, all because of idleness. So, if that dream becomes a reality, those are people I really want to cater for. At least with catering they can do anything, as long as they are not lazy. Even with fashion designing too, you can always sustain yourself with it, except only if you are lazy.
How do you intend to do that
Yes, if I see anybody that is ready to learn, why not. They can come around and I will teach them. What I have in mind is this, if you want to learn, come. At the end of your apprenticeship, whatever God puts in your mind to help my small industry, you can bring it. I just pray that God will help me to do that.
Expectations from government
The prices of our goods are not constant. The last time I bought a bag of flower, it was N6, 200, which was formerly N6,000. When that one finished, I went to buy another one and discovered it has shot up to N6, 700. They should make the prices of good to be stable, so that we can at least be able to gain from the things we are doing. Another thing is that government should try and regulate our transportation system. Once these transporters see that you are carrying a sack, they don’t care about what is inside, they will charge you heavily.
To God be the glory, at least, I am taking care of myself. It is not everything that you need that you will ask of from your husband. There are some little things in the house, he will not even know I have done them.
Husband’s reaction to your present business
Like me, he was initially discouraged. On a particular day then, he came to the shop and asked me to do the estimate, to find out whether we are improving or not. I just told him to leave me alone because if I had done that estimation that period, my enemy would have had hypertension.
Maintaining an account
Yes, if not, I would not have been able to tell you that now, I make profit from what I am doing, even though some expenses eat into the profit.
I enjoy what I am doing, but it’s a bit stressful. Early in the morning I will park out some of the goods outside, after that, I will start baking and frying and at the same time attending to customers. For now, I can’t afford somebody I will be paying.
Advice to younger unemployed graduates
The most important thing is for them to have something tangible doing. They must not necessarily wait for paid jobs that are not there. They should look inward of themselves to find out what they can do to satisfy the need of somebody and go ahead with it, no matter how small.
Source : Independent