Nurturing a catering business from scratch

Saturday September 14 2019

Mariam Nankinga Kyaterekera serves one of her

Mariam Nankinga Kyaterekera serves one of her clients tea at the canteen. Photo by Joan Salmon. 

By Joan Salmon

Catering for money. What started as a small church canteen today has grown into a big catering business that has seen Mariam Kyaterekera offer food services at wedding functions. Joan Salmon shares her story.

Walking into Brook canteen and restaurant, I am welcomed by a joyful Mariam Nankinga Kyaterekera, the proprietor. Although the restaurant was a beehive of activities, she spared sometime to attend to me after exchanging pleasantries.

Before establishing Brook restaurant, Nankinga worked with her mother at her restaurants, Kapiti Restaurant on Sir Apollo Kaggwa Road and Choma Choma in Rubaga, Kabusu. “My mother was later diagnosed with cancer and her health deteriorated. We closed the restaurants. She passed on early this year.”

“After many months without working, I made up my mind to venture into something that would generate income. Food was the first business idea that I thought of. I remember dreaming of food recipes. I discovered that cooking was a family traditional business considering that many of my relatives were operating restaurants.”

Starting the restaurant
One day, an announcement was made in Full Gospel Church, Makerere, where Kyaterekera prays from, calling people interested in operating the church canteen to submit proposals. “When I saw the call in 2015, I submitted my proposal and fortunately, I was awarded with the tender to run it,” she recalls.

With capital of Shs5m from her savings, Kyaterekera kick-started her canteen business. After having discussions with the church, she was assigned to generate weekly menus and prices for food items set for church staff. Besides serving church staff, Kyaterekera says she got an opportunity to make dishes for outsiders and church staff who did not like the canteen menu.
Kyaterekera says she was preoccupied with ideas of growing her business that she started offering outside catering services as well as joined business oriented groups such as Women in Business.

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“I have learnt to work with any budget. I appreciate the fact that the purchasing power of clients varies from individual to individual. I also see my business as a service to God and that is why I extend my services to young couples who may not have much to spend but would love to celebrate their wedding. I believe that the grace of God, above all other things, has kept me in business. There are rainy days, from which I draw lessons, but there are also good days.”

Registration
Before she learned that dfcu Bank would help women with company registration, Kyaterekera registered her company. “But my challenge was understanding all the intricacies of what was required. So, I got someone who I gave all the needed paperwork and Shs300,000 to get the work done. I am glad that he actually delivered.”

Challenges
“Sometimes, we anticipate a big number of people on special Sundays who do not show up, which leads to losses. But in such times, I share food with the vulnerable and needy.”
“Some friends ask me to supply drinks for their functions because they know I have direct contact to suppliers but some never pay, a thing that causes unanticipated losses.”

Mentorship
Kyaterekera talks fondly about The Women in Business (WiB) mentorship saying, “Starting out, I would hire professionals such as accountants, to work on books of accounts which was costly. The mentorship from WiB came with a free CPA training which was magical because from what I learned, I taught my manager and costs have been reduced tremendously.”

“There was also a women’s breakfast that was held at Kampala Serena Hotel, where several successful women were brought to share their business stories. Their experiences energised me and I am working relentlessly to build a big brand.

Future
“Today, I am trying out many other ideas to generate money. For example, I started farming and I use farm produce to supplement food items at the restaurant. I also opened up a shop in my village where I sell them frozen fish at an affordable price as well as my garden produce.”

Kyaterekera also longed to empower women and thus formed a company, Exceptional Heritage and created an arm called Exceptional Women where she mentors women in their monthly meetings at Emerald Hotel.
Kyaterekera has also learned to hang around the right company because company can make or break you. Of the mentorship programme, she says, “Indeed, God gave me the vision and WiB gave me the needed push.”

“We are planning to open up a bigger restaurant with more mouthwatering recipes. I will give it a touch of class and come up with unique menus everyday. She believes that this canteen was a starting point and with it successes.”
After flying solo, Kyaterekera believes she is ready to spread her wings.

Advice
If you are passionate about a business idea, do not wait for so much money. You may wait for it in vain. Use the little money you have to create your dream business. Challenges are bound to happen, but you can overcome them. Once you get started, things fall into place.

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