Nairobi News

HustleWhat's Hot

From a cable hawker to a respected caterer

By EVELYNE MUSAMBI

At first glance she looks like she has always had the finer things in life, until you get to know the struggles she has been through in life.

Meet Lorna Mweu, popularly known as Mamake Bobo, an enterprising woman who rose from a homeless hawker, who used to sell extension cables for a living, to a proprietor of a catering business and an author of recipe books.

The 26 year old first arrived in Nairobi in 2012 when she graduated with a marketing degree from Moi University, Eldoret and came to live with a friend while job hunting.

While four-months pregnant, she ventured into the hawking business so as to earn a living and save up for her unborn child.

“I did not have any capital so I talked to a cable supplier who agreed to give me five pieces to sell and at the end of the first day of hawking I paid back his money and made some profit,” recalls Ms Mweu.

From the daily cable profits, she managed to move out of her friend’s house and borrowed more money and moved into a one bedroom house.

“I went for a one bedroom house in Umoja estate as I wanted a life that would challenge me to work hard. I remember on moving in, the caretaker asked me where the rest of the furniture was. I joked that I was still organizing for transport yet all I had afforded to buy was a mattress and few utensils,” she narrates.

After hawking for three months and adding other items in her supplies, she landed a sales job at Kenya Orient Insurance where three years done the line, she rose to become a relationship manager.

PURSUE HER PASSION

“I gave birth to my daughter after getting the sales job and I had to go back to work after 28 days as I had no one to cater for my expenses while on leave. My mother had to come and stay home with her grandchild while I went to work,” said Ms Mwelu.

The single mother still had debts to clear as she had borrowed heavily during her days as a hawker.

“On my 24th birthday (2013), I slept hungry and that was the day I decided that it would never happen again. It motivated me to work harder at least to afford the basics,” recalls Ms Mweu.

While combining both insurance sales and cable hawking, the mother of one managed to pay up all the debts. She recalls one of the happiest days in her life.

“The day I managed to pay off my last debt I went to a fast-food restaurant in town, ordered for chicken as I had never afforded a luxury for a year and when I was served I seriously wept until people were just staring at me. For me it was a relief and I could not believe that finally I had no debt,” says Ms Mweu.

Ms Mweu rose through the insurance ranks to become a manager. But in March 2015, she decided to purse her passion of cooking.

“I had no savings so I only offered labour and for the first month I cooked for 10 clients among them my former employer and friends who promised to support me,” says Ms Mweu.

She opened a Facebook group dubbed Upishi Zone where she hoped to exchange ideas and learn more about cookery.

RECIPE BOOKS

The group has since grown to 27,000 members and she has become a household name in another popular group named Lets Cook Kenyan Meals which has over 110,000 members.

“When I started Upishi Zone I wanted to learn how to cook other meals outside my traditional dishes but with time I realised I actually knew a lot and have been sharing recipes on that platform,” says Ms Mweu.

The self-taught caterer has since written two recipe books. The first one has sold over 3,000 copies while the second one will be launched in a few weeks’ time.

Ms Mweu has catered for corporates during staff parties, graduations parties, birthdays parties, funerals and other social events. Over the years, her business has grown to handle food for 3,000 guests in an event.

“I always work under pressure so when I get money I reinvest so as to be motivated to work harder,” says the soft spoken mother of one.

Her advice to those seeking to start a catering business: “Start by offering labour service only. Then gradually buy the utensils because if you wait to have the required capital and equipment first, you probably will never start your business.”

Ms Mweu plans to grow her Mamake Bobo brand so as to attract corporate endorsements and later open a catering school which she says will be after going back to school herself to study the course.