Onyinye Ubah

One day, I woke up and got fed up as an office manager. I became fed up with the routine job I had done over the years. 9-5 had suddenly become boring. I knew I was tired and needed something different that I could call my own. I resigned. At first, I gave beauty and fashion a deep thought because I have knowledge of makeup and fashion. Still not sure what exactly I wanted, I contacted my friends to come to my rescue. I went as far as handing out questionnaires to them on what they thought should be the kind of business I should venture into. To my greatest surprise, they all came forward with the suggestion of food making. It was kind of funny for me, at first. In as much as I have always been a lover of food, I never saw myself taking it up as a business venture. You can imagine a person who makes stew with fish, another plate of stew with beef, and another plate of stew with chicken, snail sauce and more delicacies all in one fridge when the person does not run a restaurant? The above description has been a typical picture of me and variety of food always stacked up in my house. My friends came together to convince me to start food business in the commercial city of Lagos where food consumption is quite high as a result of the population. Thereafter, I went into catering services for corporate organization and bulk orders for individuals.

As a perfectionist, I saw myself looking for the best type of plates and other props in presenting and serving my food in a creative manner. Strangely, I couldn’t find the quality of plates and cutlery I needed. It threw my inquisition a notch higher. I took my time and made further research for food props vendors. What the food props they had was few. They didn’t have the things I needed. The further my research went, the more I discovered that most food props I needed could only be found on the internet. Though stalled and still startled, I had to look for a way to present my food and stand out from the numerous number of food vendors in the city of Lagos.

Here is the twist. In time, I began to notice I was paying a great attention to the details of my food presentation. Every day by day, my presentation climbed from simple to ritzy. On social media, a lot of people thought I was a food blogger and not just a food vendor at that time. The food business went on for a year and few months but I still did not feel fulfilled. Something kept on telling me that it was just a means to an end. As much as I am a good cook, I’d rather cook for entertainment and not as a business venture. The art of converting my food creativity into sales was still an uphill task. My involvement with food was more focused on elegance, ambience, ritz, penchant and gorgeousness. The attention of most people was drawn to the plates and the pictures of my food and not the food itself. There I was again lost in a deep thought of where all these twists and turns were leading me. My research took me to the pictures of other food vendors in Nigeria. There were quite a good number but I still felt there was something missing. I became tired of seeing the same white plate in almost all the pictures of food vendors. There was a birthing within me to change the face of food presentation and photography in Nigeria. Hence, I switched into food props.

Still skeptical of how the market was going to react to it, still I went in. It had become glaring that many food businesses needed help in drawing the attention of customer as well as styling the food. In no distant time, I had hit the ground running. Inquiries of my food props were coming in droves. Interest and client base grew in leaps and bounds, far beyond my expectation. People discovered a vacuum when they started seeing the kind of food props I had. The face of food online began to change – from the backdrop, plates, colors of bowl, linens, vintage props, British props and lighting. My dream of seeing local dishes in wooden plates and spoon gave me a nostalgic feeling of home.

The other loop staring at me was the photography side of food. The prices of cameras were quite expensive for me. I looked for an alternative with the iphone I had. There it was giving me clear and colorful pictures. I took more interest in showcasing African foods and their natural color. Notwithstanding, even oriental and continental dishes are still not left out in the showcase of food beauty. From then on, I began teaching and training others on how to get the best angles of food pictures.

It’s not been too long a journey but it’s been soulful and satisfying. I have learnt that every problem is an opportunity for business. I didn’t start out this journey fully equipped with artistic instincts and knowledge but the hidden talents I knew nothing about was triggered. Now, here we are!

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