Mathew Ajaere: this OAU Undergraduate employs University graduates
Do you know Lavish Chicken ‘n’ Chips at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ife in Osun State of Nigeria? Maybe not. Well, it is a food vendor located at BIMS Garden (opposite Maintenance Gate), within the OAU campus and serving tasty chicken and chips. A second Lavish outlet within the same campus is presently under review. Outrepreneurs had a chat with the owner of Lavish, 26 year old Mathew Uzoma Ajaere, a student of Human Kinetics and Health Education at the University. Here are the lavish (pun apart) details of our chat with the Imo state-born Nigerian student entrepreneur.
Lavish Chicken ‘n’ Chips, his brainchild, is designed to provide students with affordable, but sumptuous meals.
“Our meal is not only affordable, but also exquisitely tasty with so many varieties to choose from (grilled chicken, crispy chicken, fried, peppered chicken, baked and steamed chicken)”, he tells Outrepreneurs.
Established just nine months ago, Lavish Chicken ‘n’ Chips has turned out to be a lucrative business. With it, Mathew now gives financial support to his younger siblings, pay his bills, rent and school fees conveniently and, employs extra hands and financially supports a few campus events.
How does Mathew Ajaere juggle entrepreneurship with academic activities?
“It’s not been easy. I take full control of my time and apportion fixed hours to both business and studies. When it’s time for academics and all it requires, I ensure there’s minimal interference with studies. I try as much as possible to have every business dealing stay within the time frame allocated to it. Moreso, I apply the principle of ‘share the task with paid hands’. I assign some of my responsibilities to staff, so as to get things done at due time. Interestingly, many of his employees are graduates. According to him, the venture has a policy of employing ‘graduates only’, with the aim of ensuring customer care relationship, professional assertiveness and a sense of belonging.
For Mathew, inculcating knowledge acquisition and professionalism in his employees is important.
”I equip myself and staff … it’s compulsory my staff read some books I recommend and provide, such as Advanced Selling Strategies, and The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy.
Mathew Ajaere’s business strategy is simple. His service is unique and rare within its location. Therefore, he has opted to be known for just that service and remain outstanding.
“…just Chicken and Chips….bam! Nothing else”, he emphasizes.
He also harps on consistency: “We’re always available… We observe no break and as such, our customers are assured they will find us when they need our services.”
For Lavish, like every other business, there are challenges. Two are prominent for this venture: low sales during off-peak periods such as school holidays and accessibility to required resources for storage, as a huge percentage of funds are expended on procuring the right storage tools and deploying the right storage methods.
Though Mathew grew up in Accra, Ghana, he spent an exciting part of his teen life in Lagos, where he imbibed the attitude of setting goals and aiming for the top, what he refers to as ‘’I ain’t settling for less’’. According to Mathew, though he was born with a silver spoon, he lost it in his early teens and took to the streets to seek another.
Rather than allow that turnaround of fortune to discourage him, it became a motivation for Mathew Ajaere to roll up his sleeves and embrace business, in order to support himself and his family, even while in school.
“Hunger brought out the best in me. Ideas popped in, then I started laying visions. I made sure they were realistic and attainable, then I chased them closely.”
The young man says he got his motivation from the fear of going back to “a life of yesterday” and the satisfaction of getting frequent thumbs-up for doing what he does.
“I just can’t stop craving for more. God has held me all the way through thick and thin,” quips Mathew.
Mathew never got startup capital for Lavish from any outside source. He saved from salaries he received, while working with a few companies in order to raise funds to make his dream a reality. Still, he says, that dream will always be open to investments from the outside.
On his vision and plans for expansion, he says:
“Our target is campuses. It’s our vision to have a minimum of two outlets in every outstanding school. We have stormed a few and still counting. In summary, our vision is to put to the streets any item that can be purchased in any big restaurant, at a cheaper rate. We want a situation that there will be zero formality to access good chicken and chips. People, (especially students) shouldn’t wait for major ceremonies to have an exquisite taste of chicken and chips
“Realistically, in two years we should cover major schools with a minimum of 2 outlets in each. We wish, also, to provide 25 employment opportunities for graduates as supervisors and managers in our outlets, not later than two years from now.”
On Competition, Mathew gets philosophical:
“I regard every food vendor selling within or around my business axis as a competitor, because it’s an option to my service. Nevertheless, I’m more than glad to have them, because customers won’t tell the difference or appreciate our services without them…[after all], how can one [differentiate] hot water, if cold water doesn’t exist?….They are no threat. I thank God for His endless mercies. I equip myself and staff.”
Mathew Uzoma Ajaere believes African youths can become productive, if they look for needs around them and prepare to satisfy those needs.
“We African youths can be productive to ourselves and the entire globe, when we [set out] to impact our society and nation. Look closely around you, there is surely a need for a certain service…it might exist in the suburbs….Play a role. Plant it in your mind to serve humanity, rather than being served.”
Are there other Campuspreneurs out there (anywhere in Africa), whose efforts are worthy of emulation? Let’s celebrate them. Who is your favorite Campuspreneur? Let us know, now.
Cees Harmon14 Posts
Cees (pronounced Case) is on the editorial team at outrepreneurs.com. He has been in the field of journalism for 11 years and counting. He relishes Banga soup with fufu.