CEO and Founder of IZZABITES, Aisha Barkindo Bakari, is a self taught baker, chef and caterer. TMG was interested in how this Psychologist-turned entrepreneur manages her home-run business.
TMG> Tell us about yourself and your business
Aisha> I’m originally from Adamawa State, born and bred in Jos, Plateau State. I graduated from University of Jos where I studied Psychology. I am married and blessed with two lovely daughters.
It all started out in 2012 where my passion for good food and quality service evolved from making my family and friends happy to becoming a household name to so many clientele.
TMG> You are into so many things at the same time- baking, catering, etc. Is that a business strategy?
Aisha> I grew up around so many individuals who work hard at what they do. Overtime, it became a part of me. I saw so many opportunities to utilize, from cooking, and found interest in baking and most recently, cocktails. My inquisitiveness to know how things are made also played a huge role in my passion for this industry.
TMG : How far have you gone with the business and how successful?
Aisha> From cooking for family and friends, I now bake professionally, provide catering and Canteen services and small chops for birthdays, weddings, private parties and top government and private organizations.
TMG> What are the challenges you have experienced in starting up?
Aisha> In starting anything, it’s never a walk in the park. Having difficult clients is not easy but dealing effectively with them is achievable. Learning the reality that once in a while you would be told “NO” can be challenging but that makes one stronger and ready for coming challenges.
TMG> What style of management do you think works in becoming successful in your kind of business?
Aisha> I believe it’s a combination of styles. Sometimes you have to be persuasive, other times you have to be consultative; most times you have to be democratic. Every client is unique and it’s left for you to use your hunch on which works best for that situation. This method has worked for me a lot!
TMG> Mention a successful business pitch you have used s for a difficult client. How did you handle it?
Aisha> I strongly do not believe in giving a pitch to get a client or a business deal. Simplicity is always my motto in life. Instead of giving a pitch, have a conversation. It is their needs that you need to know not the other way round! That way, you know exactly what the client wants, no matter how difficult they might seem, then tailor your services to meet their specific needs.
TMG: How do you cope with other responsibilities as wife, mother and entrepreneur?
Aisha> From my early years I have always been able to multi-task, literally in everything I do. This is what made cooking a comfortable zone for me. I just make sure that I prioritize my time, knowing what is important at the right time and knowing what to postpone for later. PRIORITIZE, PRIORITIZE, PRIORITIZE….it works everytime!
TMG> Have you ever lost during sales and what lesson did you take away from that?
Aisha> In a business where you deal with perishable goods, we often face this challenge once in awhile. For me, I strongly feel good communication is the best way to avoid such disappointments. Make sure you and your client are in unison as to time, day and when to deliver and also provide a comfortable and timely platform that allows the client to make cancellation before it’s too late. This reduces losses on both parties involved!
TMG> What motivates you most?
Aisha> Knowing that there is always something more to learn. Life in itself is about learning!
TMG> What is your ultimate career aspiration?
Aisha> Food is a world of opportunity,we live by it,it is our means of survival. I want to be able to help those who have a passion like I do. I want to be able to impact and inspire so many lives through my craftsmanship and love for quality service.
TMG: How do you keep smiling even after a hectic day?
Aisha> Everyone has difficult times but that should never hinder you from seeing the bigger picture. If you have a bad day, smile so that YOU can make someone else’s bad day a good one. As a caterer, exhaustion always comes into play but we always fight through with a smile to make the client happy.
TMG> What role does marketing play in your business?
Aisha> We are always selling something. Social media has been able to allow us to reach out to more clients with our platforms. Every post we make, we are marketing what we do. It has pivoted our growth in this business tremendously.
TMG> Tell us about the greatest goal that you’ve accomplished professionally.
Aisha> Every service that I have rendered to anyone is a great accomplishment. I have learned not to rank what I do but to appreciate that every effort I make in any work I do has a significance to my success till date.
TMG> Have you remained persistent during a business deal even though everyone else around you had given up? What did it teach you?
Aisha> Consistency is very important in a catering business. I have had so many times where I would be advised to just let it go or venture into something else. Success does not come in a day. Persistence and consistency always has a reward when executed well. Never give up.
TMG> As a Psychologist, you should be in a position to share tips on how to handle people/customers. What are yours?
Aisha> Be a good listener. Communication is key to every conversation. If you listen, you will know exactly what a client needs. There is so much competition in this industry but what makes you stand out is your ability to listen and know what your clients want! Works every time!
TMG> Who are your role models and people that inspire you?
Aisha> The women in my life are my role models. I pick from their strengths, learn from their weaknesses and they have provided a great foundation for me to build on. My mother is my everything. She was a caterer, a restaurateur and an entrepreneur and she managed to raise all of us and have time to pursue her dreams. I grew up knowing that you have to work for what you want. I am inspired by that!
TMG> White collar jobs are becoming nearly impossible to get in Nigeria. How would you advise youths to be self reliant?
Aisha> We all want to have a stable income after spending years studying and making sure we have the right qualification to achieve that. Some are successful after graduation, others are not so lucky. Don’t wait for years hoping that you will get one…CREATE ONE! Put pride aside, start something, no matter how little. Observe and study your environment and see any service you can render and create a means of income. Like I said, be consistent and persistent, someone somewhere will notice your potentials.
TMG> If you had a white collar job today, would you give it all up?
You can never give up on what you are passionate about. I have also created job opportunities for alot of people that work with me. I will definitely have to find a balance if that happens(getting a job) but giving it up is no longer an option for me.
TMG> Do you have any regrets?
Aisha> I do not have regrets, rather I learn from every mistake or unfortunate circumstance I find myself. It makes me stronger and an affirmation not to repeat the same thing again.
TMG> Do you have time to socialize and how do you unwind?
Aisha> Spending time with my family and friends is my way of unwinding! And for some weird reason, I always end up in the kitchen! Watching my hubby play football on weekends and chasing my kids around the park does help with unwinding.