‘I started my pie business with NYSC savings’
Maryam Ringim is the CEO of ‘Miss R’s Pies’. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Natural and Environmental Science from the American University of Nigeria, Yola. Here, the 23 year-old Jigawa state born entrepreneur speaks on looking ooking beyond wh
How did Miss R Pies come about?
I started a few months after my youth service with the Central Bank, Abuja. I make the best shepherd’s chicken and apple pies. It caters to the customers’ cravings and sates their appetite. I take orders bi-weekly on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Also, special orders are taken on other days when placed in advance.
It was actually something I always had in mind, but didn’t really have the time to execute. I started by handing out tasters of my shepherd’s pie to friends and relatives for feedback. They all loved it!
In January 2012, I started receiving orders. I sent broadcast messages, which were sent further by friends and family. I got several invites and regular orders from my new customers.
How much capital did you have?
Honestly, I didn’t start with a particular amount of money. I just kept buying what I needed with the amount at my disposal, which was mostly my savings from youth service. It was until the second month that I started keeping track of my expenses to make comparisons and ensure profit was made.
What challenges did you encounter starting off?
As with most new businesses, selling the product poses the greatest challenge. For me, this mostly involved attracting customers, especially with many of them not within close proximity. Baking on a daily basis spreads out the orders.
How did you overcome them?
Advertisement via social media and word of mouth.I narrowed down baking to twice a week to enable me take orders in bulk. This made it more convenient to serve a wider range of customers.
What’s your experience with satisfying customers?
Feedback from the customers helped with customising for particular clients; making their pies to their personal taste. There is that rewarding feel of accomplishment when you satisfy your customer. I have also been recommended by several happy customers to more people.
‘Small chops’ is a fast growing business in Abuja and across Nigeria. How well have you positioned yourself to compete in the market?
Based on my personal research, at the time I started, there was not a single restaurant or person making shepherd’s pie here in Abuja. That worked in my favour. I became unique, with an edge over most of my competitors. A lot of people had never heard of or tried shepherd’s pie, but were willing to. Also, I have ensured that my pies are affordable, even with their high standard in taste and quality.
There is a lot of campaign about healthy eating. Is this something you factor into your products?
Yes it is. The shepherd’s pie comes with a vinaigrette salad which is as healthy and tasty as a salad can be. The shepherd’s pie and salad put together make up a balanced meal, containing all classes of food.
Hygiene is a crucial part of food business. What measures have you taken to ensure this isn’t a problem?
I am an environmentalist by qualification. I do not work in a dirty environment, and use the most hygienic products I can lay my hands on for both production and sanitation with the aid of my expertise in the field. When it comes to hygiene, my customers are in absolutely safe hands.
In the light of the recent immigration recruitment, how would you advise youngsters like you?
The immigration recruitment incident was a tragedy that could have been avoided. What happened was very sad and unfortunate. However, it opened my eyes to the reality of how much unemployment has eaten us up as Nigerians. I would like to ask them all to think as individuals, about what each person can do to keep themselves busy and earn an income. Idleness gives room for frustration and that level of desperation for just about anything. They should not let someone or a group of people sitting behind desks define their abilities.
What do you say about self-employed young people having a favourable environment to do profitable business?
They must realise the opportunity they have and make the most of it.
Business from home or from a shop, which is the better option?
Personally, I prefer working from home because of the convenience. But, on a much larger scale, definitely a shop would be more favourable. First of all, the environment. An industrial kitchen comes in play, which makes work a lot easier. Then, the direct interaction with your customers. When there is that interaction, you are able to serve customers to ultimate
satisfaction atisfaction b because th they are physically present to tell you what they do or do not like.
Do you still intend to find a nine-to-five job?
Yes I do. I have been seeking employment since I passed out from Youth Service. I would like to explore the corporate world as well and put my degree to good use. I went to an excellent university that provided me with an impeccable qualification which would be of great benefit to the organisation I get to work with, while I improve in my own skills.
This is mostly to generate capital and gain experience.
What is your take on social media as a tool for selling one’s business?
I think it’s a great medium for advertising/showcasing your products and services. People like to see sample pictures of what they are purchasing. It also makes communication a lot faster and easier with the aid of instant messaging.
Could you tell us how in your view, packaging and doing something slightly different from the norm could make a difference in an already saturated market?
Making your product unique sure makes a difference. I think as humans we are wired to try something that seems to be out of the ordinary. However, it is important that the quality meets up with the appearance. That way it doesn’t just appeal to the eyes, but also makes for a pleasant taste. Hence, it would always be picked first amongst others.