It is your past actions, choices, and experiences that ultimately shape you. This rings true for the owner and founder of Café Deli, Obado Obadoh. This man has beaten all odds to become a high-profile restaurateur in Nairobi.
Obado grew up with 13 of his siblings, under the care of his stepmother. Being one of the brightest students, he was able to skip class seven. After losing his father who was the sole breadwinner, he had to take on the responsibilities that fell on his shoulder.
Ensuring he met all the responsibilities that fell on him proved to be challenging. Thus, he decided to brew chang’aa and sell charcoal, just to cater for his family’s needs.
“In Form Two, I started brewing chang’aa and selling charcoal to cater for my schooling and the family that my father left behind. I worked hard in everything I did because I hated that life and I wanted to get out so bad. I wanted to move further away from poverty and that is what drives me to date,” says Obadoh.
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Instead of joining the university after high school, he decided to look for a job, something that led him to Nairobi to look for greener pastures.
With his Form Four certificate, he got employed as an apprentice chef at the Norfolk Hotel. While he worked here, he lived in Dandora and life was hard. What kept him going was the belief that one day he would succeed and make it in life. After four years, he left and joined Sarova Group of hotels with his newly acquired knowledge as a pastry chef. It is in Sarova that he realized a gap in the market.
Identifying the gap
“The cakes that were available were of poor quality. I was working for a five-star hotel and I understood what quality is. I wanted to give the middle-class quality at a price they can afford. I had one goal and that was to bridge the gap.”
He started a pastry shop in Westlands with a group of investors and although there arose disagreements between them, he opted out and sold his shares for Ksh. 800,000. In this, he learned a lesson: “I learned that if you are working with partners, you must have shared vision. If any of you has a different ambition from the business, then chances are that it will break down.”
With the money from the shares, he started Nanjala Ltd, a start-up that took nearly six months to break-even. As the business grew steadily, he learned of a coffee shop that was being sold off.
He put in a bid for the business but lost since he did not have Sh18 million needed to acquire the firm.
The banks told him that his asset value of Sh2 million at the time was too little to cover the financing that he required to buy out the firm.
Unbowed, he approached a venture fund that loaned him the cash to expand his business, which he re-named Coffee Deli (now café Deli.)
Two years after opening the first Café Deli along Moi Avenue, Obadoh had already paid off the 12 million loan he took.
“I managed to repay the loan because I did not change my lifestyle; my main focus was repaying the loan,” he adds. To date, Obadoh is still a chef in one of his restaurant.
Even today, he remains the chef in one of his restaurants and has managed to open two other branches within the Nairobi CBD.
“I have learned to take risks. The Sh12 million is a risk I took and it paid off. I have learned that it is important to pay your debts and always concentrate on one thing at a time. Find one thing that you love and give it your all.”