From chang’aa seller to owning Sh100 million restaurant chain
They say your current life is as a result of your past actions, choices and experiences, but your future is determined by what you do now.
This statement has never been truer for one Obadoh Obadoh of Bundalang’i, who has beaten all odds to become a high-profile restaurateur in Nairobi.
Born in a polygamous family, Obadoh grew up with his 13 siblings under the care of his stepmother.
He was one of the brightest children in the village mostly because his father was a tough teacher. In his years in primary school, he skipped class seven because the teachers say he was a bright student.
When he was in high school, he lost his father, the sole breadwinner. As the eldest child, responsibilities fell on his shoulder. Making ends meet was a struggle and Obadoh opted to brew chang’aa and sell omena in the village to cater for his needs and those of his family.
“In Form Two, I started brewing chang’aa and selling charcoal to cater for my schooling and the family that my father left behind. I worked hard in everything I did because I hated that life and I wanted to get out so bad. I wanted to move further away from poverty and that is what drives me to date,” says Obadoh.
After finishing high school, he decided to look for a job instead of joining the university. This decision has contributed to the person he is today. “I have no regrets and I don’t take anything for granted,” continued Obadoh.
Like most Kenyans, after high school, Obadoh embarked on a journey that led him to Nairobi to look for greener pastures. With his Form Four certificate, he got employment at the Norfolk hotel as an apprentice chef. Four years later he moved to Sarova Group of hotels with his newly acquired knowledge as a pastry chef.
While working at Norfolk hotel, Obadoh lived in Dandora and life was hard.
“I learned to coexist with all kinds of people. Some of my neighbors were touts, others petty thieves. The sewage system there was pathetic and we shared one toilet. What kept me going was a strong belief that one day I would succeed and make it in life”,
While working at the Sarova, he realized a gap that was in the market.
“The cakes that were available were of poor quality. I was working for a five-star hotel and I understood what quality is. I wanted to give the middle-class quality at a price they can afford. I had one goal and that was to bridge the gap,” he says.
He took a leap of faith and started a pastry shop in Westlands with a group of investors, which he later opted out and sold his shares for Sh800,000.
“I learned that if you are working with partners, you must have shared vision. If any of you has a different ambition from the business, then chances are that it will break down,” he adds.
He used his Sh800,000 to start Nanjala Ltd, which is the brand behind Café Deli. In 2011, one of his clients wanted to sell his business, a restaurant. This was a turning point for Obadoh, His only dilemma was the huge amount of money the client was asking for.
The restaurant was being sold for Sh18 million and he only had Sh40,000 in his account. Determined, he went ahead and negotiated until the price came down to Sh12 million.
“I set out to look for the money to close the deal, but the banks could not advance me the amount. This is when one of my friends introduced me to financiers who agreed to raise the capital to purchase the restaurant under Private Equity fund,” he explains.
“When you pitch a business idea, you must believe in it so much that you can sell to anyone. I believed in myself first and they saw that believe in me and they believed in my belief.”
Two years after opening the first Café Deli along Moi Avenue, Obadoh had already paid off the 12 million loans he took.
“I managed to repay the loan because I did not change my lifestyle; my main focus was repaying the loan,” he adds. To date, Obadoh is still a chef in one of his restaurant.
The same financiers financed his two other branches all within the Nairobi CBD in the years that followed. They have injected close to Sh100 million so far. Once Obadoh clears the entire loan, the businesses will be fully owned by him.
“I have learned to take risks. The Sh12 million is a risk I took and it paid off. I have learned that it is important to pay your debts and always concentrate on one thing at a time. Find one thing that you love and give it your all”. added Obadoh.