Starting a business is like building a cathedral, says Caroline Murigi, who took a bold step to leave her prestigious job at a Netherlands telecom company to teach people how to cook Kenyan food.
“It takes hard work and you have to build something that will last for years to come,” says Murigi
With no business plan and with just €500, Murigi hired a kitchen, bought ingredients and printed posters, inviting the public to cook, eat, drink and dance the Kenyan way.
And that’s how Chakula BV was born in early 2017.
Murigi, whose says she has always loved cooking from age 9, moved to the Netherlands for ‘greener pastures’ first working for an international NGO.
She then moved to Liberty Global – world’s largest international TV and broadband company – as an executive assistant and left after seven years exiting as Demand Manager in the mobile division.
“I loved my job, but I always felt there is a gap between my culture and how I was living my life. There was nothing Kenyan I could pass to my daughters,” says Murigi.
The light bulb moment came when she was driving to work one day and thought of starting a Kenyan restaurant in Amsterdam.
But after sharing the idea with a friend, she was introduced to someone who had started Italian cooking workshops.
“His cooking workshops were always sold out. We set up our first cooking workshop at his kitchen studio and he gave me tips on how to target the market and how to structure the workshops,” says Murigi, who says she got a profit of €200 from her first workshop, ploughing it back to the business.
As Chakula BV was taking its baby steps, Murigi had to recruit and train a team to take care of the business, partly because she was expecting and was due to take a maternity break.
“I don’t think I would have recruited if I wasn’t expecting and we wouldn’t have grown as fast as we have if I didn’t have a team that believes in the vision and passionate about what we do,” explains Murigi.
Chakula BV teaches the workshop participants how to cook eight different meals including Ugali, Chapati, Pilau and Samosa.
Murigi uses two venues in Amsterdam, one in Apeldoorn (which is fully booked until December) and an outdoor location in Wageningen for her cooking workshops, attracting families or friends who want to spend time together learning a new dish.
Companies have also booked her workshops as a team building activity, which has helped Murigi develop her packages.
“We have cooking workshops open to the public which can take up to 16 people which we charge €55 per person,” explains Murigi.
Participants pay €75 for private cooking workshops and team building groups.
In the long run, Murigi’s goal is to introduce other African cuisines and add more activities to Chakula BV workshops.