How I built an eatery with Sh8,000

Thursday, October 8th, 2020 00:00 |
Josephine Muthoni owner of Rendezvous Restaurant. Photo/Courtesy

Out of work when the pandemic hit, Josephine Muthoni was at loss on what to do and how to feed herself and five children. Her turn to receive her chama contribution became her saving grace.

Fire, said the Roman stoic Seneca, is the test of gold; adversity, of strong men.

Covid-19, arguably, provided the most prolific test of human resilience in modern times.

A new crop of heroes and heroines has emerged, sharpened by the pandemic, hardened by the afflictions of this unprecedented malaise, shocked out of their comfort zones into a bold and resilient generation that could aptly espouse “nothing is impossible” as its operative catchphrase. 

Josephine Muthoni aptly fits into this class. Today, she runs a fast-growing eatery along the Flyover-Njabini road in Magumu ward, Nyandarua county.

The bustling restaurant, Rendezvous, recently clocked its third month in business, and seems poised for an even more lustrous future. She has even started a butchery on the premises.

“Mine is a unique business,” Muthoni told People Daily. “It was born in the thick of the coronavirus pandemic”. 

By Grace

Rendezvous started from humble beginnings, kept afloat by a shoestring budget and the sheer fortitude of an intrepid entrepreneur who practically had nothing to lose. 

In January, Muthoni took up a job at a local restaurant. She was happy with the modestly paying job, as it catered to her needs and those of her five children.

Then Covid-19 came calling, rapturing her newly found joy when her employment was abruptly terminated in April. 

She felt lost. All her life, Muthoni had tucked her plans in the comfort and security of her salary, which had now been snipped without notice.

She’d been terminated without benefits, and it seemed certain she would drift into perpetual penury.

In the ensuing bleakness, she resigned to her home, her pride, confidence and sense of direction ripped to tatters, unsure of what the winds of time would blow her way. 

But as the colloquialism has it, ‘it ain’t over till the fat lady sings’, a silver lining materialised two months later when Muthoni received Sh5,000 from her chama. It felt like a windfall in the circumstances. 

“I pondered over my options with the money. I was at a low moment in life, particularly due to challenges of feeding my family.

I was bogged down by numerous thoughts, and was steeped in untold dilemmas over the little options I had given the meagre resources at hand.

I was torn between spending the money on food and investing it. I knew that even if I opted to spend the money on our household needs, the amount would hardly sustain us for long.

It probably wouldn’t last more than a week at most. In the end, I settled on investment.

I approached my parents for help, and they gave me Sh3,000. And so with Sh8,000, I started the business”. 

Capital base

Armed with what many would consider a measly capital base and her big vision, Muthoni set up shop.

She started by naming the business By Grace Hotel, a name inspired by her belief in God’s providence and grace.

A month later, she christened it Rendezvous, a name, she says, encapsulates her vision for the business as a leisurely meeting point.

The initial days saw her straddling all roles of the eatery, from cooking to serving customers to cleaning and accounting.

She’d rise up at 4am and go to the market for supplies, before opening the business at 6am and preparing all early morning meals.

“I made Sh700 on my first day in business”, Muthoni beams. She didn’t sell tea that first morning, as the day was shrouded in heavy mists, which hampered visibility of the new premises.

People didn’t know a new eatery had opened. The mists thinned out later in the day and that was when customers started trickling in.

The following day, she made Sh1,000, which increased to Sh1,500 on the third day.

Ever since, the business has earned the confidence of the neighbourhood, and her fortunes have ballooned to what many would consider a respectable income.

“These days I make up to Sh4,000 a day; so far so good. The business is doing well,” she says.

The demands of a growing customer base necessitated an extra hand. Today, she has employed two staff members, and from the look of things, Muthoni anticipates she will hire more labour in the future.

She is now hoping to upscale her enterprise to cater for specialty dishes.

“A lot of people have been asking for chips, which I currently don’t serve,” she said. “I don’t have a deep fryer.

I’m also using the two Thermos flasks I bought as I started the restaurant.

I have not been able to increase them, among other necessities for the restaurant”.

One thing is for sure: Muthoni has graduated into a seasoned hospitality entrepreneur, eager to propel her enterprise into a bigger and sustainable income source for herself and her team.

She is also firm that when the doors of employment were slammed in her face in April, they spelt a new beginning, one of independence and self-actualisation.

“I am past employment now,” she says with a laugh. wHer biggest take away?

“Though not an easy job, I have learnt that with determination and hope you can make it.

It all requires a good attitude towards customers and being positive even in your mind,” says the businesswoman who hopes, in three months, to introduce chicken and chips and probably do barbecue because for her this is a dream come true. 

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