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Meet the Nigerian Banker, turned Chef - Linda Ajala

Nigerian Chef Linda Adeoye Ajala Richmond Okezie

On episode 2 of my business live session series on Instagram, I had a chat with my friend Linda Ajala who is doing amazing things with her catering business, Splurgeon food.

Little background

Linda and I met a few years back in Abuja, during Epicrich first hangout. I was in Abuja for a few days to handle business, and I decided to organise the hangout to present an opportunity for people on the Epicrich platform in Abuja to meetup and interact. After putting out the post on Instagram, Linda reached out to me about helping to organise the event and she did. We spent the entire day canvassing Jabi area for a venue and eventually found one, but that was not all. Linda catered for the event free of charge, which was a very selfless thing. She has gone on to do amazing things with her catering brand since then.

Starting out

Linda started out as a Banker in 2013, earning a monthly salary in excess of N200k. A year into the job, she knew she wanted more, despite the opportunities in the bank. "The job was good, I was getting good pay, but I think personal development, I just wanted to do something different", said Linda. What will turn out to be her catering brand started out as a joke, in her own words. Linda started by selling soup bowls to her friends in the bank. She recalled having a chat with a friend on possible side income streams, who ask asked why she cooks for free since she loves to cook - why not turn it into a business, asked the friend. But this was a ridiculous idea. Going from earning N20Ok+ monthly in a corporate job to selling soup bowls for N2k. Nevertheless, because this was something Linda enjoyed doing, she figured if she cooked and people refused to buy, then she will eat the food herself, that is how she started and the response was great, the birth of Splurgeon Food.

2 years later after she began selling soup bowls to colleagues in the bank, Linda finally quit her job to pursue the cooking business full time. But selling soup bowls was not enough business, so she arranged with a bank to sell lunch to staff. At this point, Linda employed a kitchen assistant to help out with the activities. Few months later, and she added a second bank to the list, making it two bank branches where she sold lunch to staff, and she employed a second kitchen assistant. Linda remarked that although the profit made from selling lunch in the branches was little, the turnover was great and made it possible to maintain cash-flow. At this point, she started catering for events, acquired more assets to help in the business and it all began to gradually come together.

The food business is one of the easiest to enter in Nigeria, with little or no entry barriers, this makes the industry very competitive with more people coming in everyday and offering the same service for competitive prices. It is therefore imperative to pivot and have a competitive advantage, in order to make it in the industry. This led Linda to attend Reddish Culinary School in Abuja for one year, where she learned the art side of cooking, food styling, food photography and more. Further, in a bid to strengthen the position of her catering brand, Splurgeon foods, she decided to specialise in catering for private and classy events with multiple meal courses, as opposed to events with large gathering and a few meal courses. Here are a few of Linda's food photographs. You can take a look at her Instagram for me.

Chef Linda Nigerian food photography Richmond Okezie
Chef Linda Nigerian food photography Richmond Okezie
Chef Linda Nigerian food photography Richmond Okezie

Chef Linda Nigerian food photography Richmond Okezie

Chef Linda Nigerian food photography Richmond Okezie

Covid Challenges

Linda noted that she was among the few persons that adapted quickly and saw the opportunities presented by the pandemic. She partnered with a delivery service to provide food to many clients during the lockdown period.

The future

Linda is working more strategically to consolidate the growth of Splurgeoun foods and has high hopes for her food photography. With a global outlook, Linda hopes to bring attention to the diversity and variety of Nigeria food and cousins. She is also presently partnering with brands in the food processing business to take her food photography to the next level.

Linda is enthusiastic and I am positive she will keep climbing high. I look forward to speaking to her in the coming months to check up on her progress.

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