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 eating restaurants.”
Starting the restaurant
One day, an announcement was made in Full Gospel Church, Makerere, where she prays from, calling people interested in operating the church canteen to submit proposals. “When I saw a call in 2015, I submitted my proposal and fortunately, I was awarded with a tender to run it,” Kyaterekera 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 were 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.
I have learnt to work with any budget. I appreciate the fact 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.”
“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.”
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 Serena Hotel, Kampala 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.
“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.”
She 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.
“If you are passionate about a business idea, do something about it, no matter how much you have. Do not wait for a lot of money. You may wait for it in vain. Use the little money you have to create a big business. Challenges are there but you will overcome because once you get started, things start falling in place,” she says.