‘It’s been a long time coming , but i thank God Jamo-Afrique is here’
After years of planning and fine-tuning the idea, young entrepreneur and wife of Prince Dilly Umenyiora, Fifi, has finally opened Jamo Afrique, a spanking new restaurant that serves both Afro-Caribbean dishes. Situated in Oniru Estate, Victoria Island, Lagos, the official launch attracted celebrities, friends and family members of Fiffi, who has resolved to chat her own path in business, having worked with her husband’s Dilly Motors for years. A visit to the restaurant shows a state of the art and exquisite furnishing with world-class customer service, buffet, À la Carte meals and premium drinks. In this interview with CHUKS NWANNE, Fifi, a graduate of Foreign Language and Literature from the University of Port Harcourt, spoke on Jamo-Afrique project and her future plans as an entrepreneur.
Finally, Jamo-Afrique has opened, how does that make you feel?
It’s been a long time coming, but I thank God Jamo-Afrique is here today to show results of the hardwork; I’ve put in with my work and fantastic support from my husband. From here on, it’s more work and dedication to build and sustain this new brand. After I left school, I started working with my husband at Dilly Motors Limited; we’re car dealers. But along the line, I decided to branch and do my own thing. I had always had the passion for hosting and being a restaurateur, so, I had to branch out and that was how we birthed this idea.
You were doing well with Dilly Motors, what informed your decision to build your own business?
Sure, I’ve always been comfortable at Dilly Motors, but I wanted to discover myself. I also have my own dreams, passions and talent; I decided to use my passions and talents to develop something different. You know, at the end of the day, why put all our eggs in one basket when we can diversify and have different business and financial breakthroughs?
Could you tell us more about Jomo-Afrique, what’s the concept?
Jamo-Afrique is like an Afro-Caribbean restaurant; we specialise in Nigerian and Jamaican foods; my husband loves Jamaican food. It’s not something we have here in Nigeria already; we wanted to stand out. Here, it’s either they do continental, Chinese or Nigerian dishes, so, we wanted to do something different from others. This is entirely different from your typical Nigeria buka.
How has it been putting all these things together?
I must confess, it has been extremely stressful and I have actually offended so many people, including my friends, children and even my husband; I haven’t had time for anyone. Its really stressful starting up a restaurant and again, you have to be very careful; you can’t depend on peoples’ help, so you have to do many things by yourself. For instance, I’m just coming from the market; not that I don’t have people to go for me or suppliers, but in the beginning, I need to understand the market so that, by the time I start calling my suppliers, they know what I’m talking about. We’re here to make gains and not trying to do stuff and then loose money. So, it’s very stressful. And financially as well, it’s really hectic because, you have to put in so much. If you want something good, you’re going to have to put in a lot. But at the end of the day, it’s for a good cause.
In any business venture, getting the right people is always a challenge, how was your experience?
It hasn’t been easy; I had to work with a consultant for that and had to do a lot of trials and errors. I mean, we hired and sacked multiple times, until we narrowed down to the best. With the help of my HR, who made things easy for me, we were able to recruit capable hands.
What’s your take on Nigerian youths?
I think Nigerians are very talented people; out there, you’ll really find talent and they don’t necessarily have to walk around with their CVs. There are people out there that have what you’re looking for. Now, for my cooks, I didn’t have to go to a cookery school to look for people that graduated from cookery schools. There are people that know how to cook, people that know their job and have the talent. You just have to pick them out and give people opportunities and this is what I did because, anyone would have been like, ‘she’d have to go for a high-class cooks to cook for her,’ but I actually went out and I got the best.
So you’re part of those who believe paper qualification is not really necessary?
Don’t get me wrong, its good to go to school but paper qualification is not everything; there are people that did not go to school, but they have handiwork and they know what they are doing. So, we must not forget there’s something called talent.
What services are available here?
Apart from coming here to eat and then leave, we do delivery services and outside catering. In here as well, we have VIP rooms where you can rent if you want to throw a birthday party and other events. That’s basically all for now.
The country is currently going through recession, how confident are you with this venture?
I know some people don’t like to hear, ‘go and pray.’ In these hard times, people don’t want to hear things like that. But honestly, this has always been my dream, but if anyone had told me like five month ago this would have happed, I wouldn’t have believed it, but with prayers… prayers works for me. So, I don’t have any advice to give other than just to pray and I believe that, if you pray and work hard and if its something God wants for you, it will come to pass. All I can say is that my own prayers worked for me.
Where are you taking this brand? What’s your future plan?
My plan is to expand; I’m definitely going to have other branches. I don’t plan to stay here along; it’s going to be a chain by the grace of God. Right now, we have Jamo-Afrique (Nigerian/Jamaican), who knows in a year or two, God willing, we’ll open a separate Jamaican restaurant and another one strictly Nigerian. Or, we might just expand and go into meals from other countries. So, we are open-minded with the business.
How prepared are you as an entrepreneur, especially dealing with salaries?
I’ve always been an entrepreneur; I’ve always been in that line even before now. So, I’m used to it already and as I’ve started this one, I want to take it from here. I’m ready for it; if I weren’t ready, I wouldn’t be opening. I mean, it’s been difficult trying to open because, we’ve been scared; hopefully, there’ll be no mistakes. If there are mistakes along the line, well, we will correct it and learn from it.
What do you say to young people, who have the dream of being their own boss?
Of course, they should keep the drive alive and work towards it. If you have your dreams you follow your dreams. I have this saying, ‘follow your dreams for they know the way.’ So, if you have your dreams, don’t let any thing hold you back, follow it and be focused. Today, I’m very fulfilled that I’m following mine by God’s grace.