Take a minute to consider that what you watch on TV could determine your future business. Growing up, Victoria Mbabazi spent a lot of time watching the Food Channel. She experimented with different recipes and wanted to study food production at university but was instead advised to study Software Engineering.
It all turned out great because now, Victoria’s three passions are culinary art, technology and agriculture. In 2013, she started Kahwa2Go, a cafe and restaurant with her business partner and mentor. She also works with technology innovation, encouraging women in the tech.
Victoria was part of the 1,000 African entrepreneurs selected by the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program (TEEP) in 2015. Read on to learn about Victoria’s the 40/60 approach to working, her four skills for running a cafe/restaurant and being judged by others as a young #MotherlandMogul.
What launched your interest in the culinary industry?
Once upon a time there was a little girl who loved nothing more than school and play time. As life would have it, play time slowly dwindled away as is the norm for many when all the elder brothers and sisters head out to boarding school.
As luck would have it, I spent most of my lazy days watching the Food Network channel and experimenting with different recipes as my mum made lunches and dinners. I paid no mind to it; it was something fun to do, period.
The first call to fate was when I was joining university in 2012, my gut feeling was I should pursue a food production and hospitality course. However, I was advised that this was not yet a lucrative industry in Uganda thus the Software Engineering course I opted for.
I worked in the technology eco-system all through my four-year course and along the way I met my now business partner who is very passionate about entrepreneurship. He mentored me into both the technology and entrepreneurship industries and before we knew it, we had merged our two passions —culinary art and entrepreneurship. We have been at it since 2013.
Tell us about Kahwa2Go. What do you seek to fulfill with the products/services you provide?
The birth of Kahwa2Go was quite immaculate, my business partner and I first spoke of the concept on the eve of Christmas in 2013. Kahwa2Go is a Ugandan trademarked business of The 2Go Guys Limited providing a quick service, convenient food place for the middle class, commuters, urban dwellers, families or colleagues that are looking for an opportune meeting and co-working point in Ntinda.
Our food menu is a blend of modern fine dining whole meals with a touch of delicious fresh homemade snacks. We also offer a variety of coffee beverages, juices, milkshakes and teas, all with an option of takeaway or dine-in.
Kahwa2Go is already signed up on Uganda’s most visited online food ordering platform, Jumia Food. We also have a steady growth of both new customers from social media and repeat customers.
Kahwa2Go is competing in a market size of 1 million middle class potential customers in Kampala. This market is shared by less than 50 upscale (white collar) restaurants. It’s this fact here that provides an opportunity for us to venture into the food industry.
How did you go about setting it up?
The initial concept of Kahwa2Go was to establish coffee carts along the streets of Kampala. This did not come to pass due to regulations by the city authority.
In mid-2014, we got some space in an innovation hub, set up one espresso machine and served an average of ten people per day. We embraced our share of lessons and in June 2015, we launched as the first coffee shop to partner with Vivo Energy Uganda at one of their fuel stations in the city center.
Our menu was simple but creative comprising of different hot and cold beverages as well as snacks and casual meals that our customers would enjoy in our fifteen-seater space. This year (2016), we set out to maximize KahwaGo’s potential, closed operations with Vivo Energy and opened an ambient, fully-fledged restaurant and café seating an average of fifty people situated in Ntinda; the heart of one of Kampala’s suburbs.
Our core principles of execution were minimalism, leverage, negotiation and user-centered design. We understood our limits and combatted them head-on by equipping ourselves with adequate knowledge and exposure about the culinary industry as well as entrepreneurship through programs like the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program (TEEP) and the CURAD Agribusiness incubator program.
Also, we have a 40/60 rule when it comes to getting work done. We spend 40% of our time planning and ensuring that we have the right people, organizational and operational structures, equipment and most importantly the knowledge to execute our business road map.
What four skills have you found necessary to run a restaurant and cafe? Why are they necessary?
The fundamental areas of competence are;
- having the basics of accounting,
- great passion about customer service,
- creative marketing and
- a firm grip on management.
From inception, it is paramount to understand your work; your product and systems. This will holistically inform what kind of marketing strategy to implement.
Once you know your customers, you then dive into discovering what kind of experience they expect considering the fact that you want to create a loop of loyal clientele.
Accounting is a core because you need to understand how money and other resources get in and out, the menu pricing models and be able to interpret the sales and expenses of the business at the bare minimum.
Lastly, great management is the adhesive component that will ensure the employees continually work as a team to understand the all-round needs of the business in peak and off peak seasons.
What were the unexpected challenges you encountered while starting out?
We knew right from the beginning that starting a business would not be a walk in the park. Being a relatively young entrepreneur at 25 years old, the most astonishing challenge faced thus far is being judged by people based on age vis-a-vis passion and abilities.
The intimidation has taught us that ‘age is no guarantee of maturity’ and successful entrepreneurship is about passion, creative execution and perseverance, the rest is secondary.
As someone who has achieved so many awards through your initiatives, what more can we expect from you?
The awards are a remarkable experience and the lessons learnt payback a hundredfold when you start to implement your dream.
At the forefront of my ambitions is nurturing Kahwa2Go into a self-sustaining and nation-wide recognized restaurant brand but also creating jobs for 50 young people in the next 2 years.
On the technology side, my immediate goal is to mentor more young ladies into the innovation ecosystem. My long term vision is to successfully cross-fertilize the 3 sectors I am passionate about —culinary art, technology and agriculture— to not only inspire the next generation entrepreneurs but also build a legacy.
If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.