Bashir Abdulrahaman took a leap of faith into hotel business with little knowledge in the industry.
So right from the start, he plunged into the deep end of challenges, learning the ropes as he went along.
“I learned everything by doing,” he says.
Aside from limited knowledge, he faced resistance from his friends and relatives who told him his idea was dead on arrival as he had no chance of competing with the big boys such as Java and KFC.
The seed capital required was also huge and he had to borrow from friends and relatives to top up his savings.
Given the cold feet about his idea from those he relied on for support, he had to be at his persuasive best to win their hearts and convince them to open their purses and give him the capital he desperately needed.
Driven by the beauty of his dream, he was eventually able to master sufficient finances to get him off the ground.
“I had some little savings and with help from friends and relatives I managed to actualise my dreams,” says Mr Bashir who was born in Nakuru in 1978.
Although a set off odds were stacked against him, he had a well-grounded strategy to succeed.
“I wanted to take advantage of the fast growing town. Since I had travelled far and wide and visited many restaurants in Europe and Middle East, I wanted to make good use of that experience to start a restaurant in Nakuru and offer residents good food and quality service,” Mr Bashir tells Enterprise.
So last year he started fast food restauant Chicken Baristo, which serves African, Indian, Swahili, local and continental cuisines.
Today the Sh1 million seed capital he put into the business has grown tremendously, with the number of employees rising from five he started with to 36 currently.
What is his secret of success?
“Humble yourself to your customers, be good to them, listen to them and above all appreciate them by giving them classic services. If you treat them as kings and queens they will respond in a positive way," says Mr Bashir who is an alumni of Kisumu Boys Secondary School.
"At Chicken Baristo a customer is not just right, he or she is our boss and that is our foundation. Hospitality industry is a fragile business and when a customer enters this restaurant and leaves smiling that is my joy.”
Mr Bashir derives his inspiration from American business magnate, the late Steve Jobs.
“I am motivated by the challenges he went through. This makes me fight for my space in this competitive industry. Jobs taught me to keep trying not to look behind but focus on future without loss of enthusiasm,” he says.
The job opportunities he has created for young people is also a source of joy for him.
“I get a lot of satisfaction when I think about a few people who totally turned their lives around after working for Chicken Baristo. People who had no idea what to do with their lives, and then found a purpose, a career and grew as best coffee makers, waiters and chefs. We want to be the Macdonald of Nakuru by nurturing raw talents,” he says.
“I love my employees as they are the engine that drives this restaurant. Single-handedly I cannot achieve much. I owe my success to their efforts,” says Mr Bashir who is a sales and marketing graduate from Maseno College.
Before venturing into the hospitality industry, he was a sales and marketing manager at Hass Petroleum Company in Kenya and South Sudan.
“During my tenure at Hass I got opportunity to travel widely to overseas, Middle East , Africa and I saw the kind of hospitality people were experiencing,” he says.
"I was a big fan of Java. I did a study case of Java and KFC and merged their experiences together and that is how the idea of starting Chicken Baristo was birthed.”
Despite his star rising, Mr Bashir says there are still challenges he encounters, including government policies “which are not clear”.
“The industry requires clear-cut policies which will open more windows of opportunities for investors in the lucrative industry and help create more jobs for young people,” he says, adding that the lack of skilled manpower in Nakuru town is another setback.
To entrepreneur starting out in the restaurant business, Mr Bashir advises them to invest in employees, data collection, research and innovation. This way, he adds, they will be able to attain their dreams.
His plan in the next five years is to become a market leader not only in Nakuru but across the country.