Continuing our series of profiles of women of colour making their mark in business and across industry.
Tokunbo Koiki is the founder of Tokunbo’s Kitchen a pop-up service that offers people from diverse cultural backgrounds a chance to experience delicious and nutritious home-cooked Nigerian food. She launched the business in 2015.
What drove you to start your own business?
I started Tokunbo’s Kitchen after noticing a gap in the street food market for a service that specialised in Nigerian cuisine.
What was your career path before starting your business?
After obtaining my first degree in Psychology, I worked in education for over five years.
I then pivoted to social work, which had been a childhood goal. I received my masters in Social Work in 2010 but my first work experience in social services left me disillusioned with my chosen career path.
I resigned from my last full-time role in August 2014 as I realised I was emotionally unhappy and took some time to consider what self-employment options I wanted to pursue.
Tell us about the business planning stage.
I didn’t write a business plan until about five months into running the business.
It took me five weeks to go from the day I decided to take action to start the business to selling at my first event – Africa Utopia festival, at the iconic Southbank centre.
I was able to start the business with very little support in the first instance as I had been involved in supporting my mum’s businesses since I was 14.
I received business coaching from a local business support agency to determine the ideal business model and support in writing a business plan to obtain a start-up loan.
How far ahead do you plan and what keeps you on track and motivated?
I try to plan my activities quarterly. I also take time to reflect on my goals and remain flexible to changing them based on what is working and how I feel.
As a solo entrepreneur, it can be extremely tough to stay on track and motivated especially when things are not going as planned or unexpected instances come up. However, my biggest motivating factor is my daughter. She is now 11 and knowing I am modelling for her the possibilities that are available, keeps me pushing on.
I want her to feel proud of me and I want to be able to leave behind a legacy that she can be inspired by.
Can you describe a typical working day?
My work days are quite different depending on the type of event.
On the days that I have an event or festival, I am often up from about 5am to finish prepping and start cooking. Then I have to transport the food and equipment to the site of the venue.
Upon arrival, I get my team to set up the venue and finish up the cooking. A street food festival involves beeing outside on my feet for about 12 hours, then going home to cook some more food for the following day!
What has been the most amazing day in your entrepreneurial life so far?
Winning at the PRECIOUS Lifestyle Awards this summer was a great moment for me especially as it was a public vote.
Hosting the “first Nigerian cooking class” at Google’s London HQ as part of their Black History Month series of events was a dream, I hadn’t even envisioned, come true.
What has been your scariest moment?
I was sick whilst on holiday to Cuba earlier this year. This was due to having worked myself to the point of exhaustion for the three months before my trip.
On my return, I immediately set out to reconsider my working pattern and schedule a weekly self-care day for myself which I have since adhered to.
How do you work on making your business grow?
I have a quarterly plan of goals and actions that I set for myself and the business. I have recently started working with a coach as well as joining a mastermind.
I am also working with a brand consultant to raise the profile of the business to grow to the next level.
What is the best thing about being your own boss?
The freedom and autonomy I have to create life on my own terms. Creating employment and opportunities for others.
What are the challenges of working for yourself and how do you tackle them?
Not having a daily or weekly routine can make it hard to stay on top of all the things to be done.
Also cashflow and having a regular stream of income can become concerning. I am able to mitigate some of these issues by trying to plan quarterly activities to ensure I always have work lined up at any given period.
I also try to motivate myself by not been too hard on myself. It can be hard to switch off from a 9-5 mindset but as someone who works best late into the early hours of the morning, I give myself a well-deserved break to have a lie in some mornings.
Who do you admire or look to for inspiration as a business owner?
I am inspired by listening and hearing about other women entrepreneurs. I enjoy listening to the Support is Sexy podcast which features women entrepreneurs from across the world.
What piece of advice has had the most impact on your business? And who was it from?
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. Arthur Ashe
What are the three books, websites or resources (professional or personal) that you would recommend to other business owners?
The Support is Sexy podcast is a great resource point for business owners.
Entrepreneurial You By Dorie Clark,
The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath,
Boss Life by Paul Downs
What other passions do you have away from your business? How do you relax?
I love dancing and often have some Afrobeats playing whilst I am cooking up a storm in the kitchen.
I also enjoy reading, both fiction and nonfiction although creating more reading time for myself can sometimes be difficult whilst running a business.
I also enjoy listening to podcasts both as a way to stay motivated as well as to relax.
Connect with @tokunboskitchen across all social media platforms