Matse Uwatse-Nnoli is the founder of Matse Cooks, a Nigerian and African food blog with some western fusions.
A multiple awards winning radio presenter, Matse lost her job while pregnant, so she returned to her other love, cooking. From blogging about recipes and sharing kitchen tips, Matse now boasts of a range of different spices and seasonings in her name!
In this interview with woman.ng, she tells us how she started her business.
FROM HAVING AN IDEA TO STARTING YOUR BUSINESS, SHARE YOUR JOURNEY WITH US
I became a food blogger on www.matsecooks.com after I lost my job as a radio presenter while I was sick and pregnant. This was a very dark and trying time in my life and I was very depressed. Being a high achiever who suddenly became jobless, I felt I was useless and hopeless. I was always crying and miserable and stayed within the confines of my home.
Then one day, I told myself to snap off my misery and do something with my life. I asked myself, “Matse…apart from being a media personality, what else are you passionate about?” Food immediately came to my mind. I love cooking and I love photography.
Bingo! I thought. That is what I should do. The next day, I told my husband to drive me to the mall where I purchased a new notebook and a camera and that was how my food blogging career started and it evolved and gave birth to Matse Cooks Spices.
WHY DO YOU LOVE WHAT YOU DO? THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER BUSINESSES YOU COULD HAVE EXPLORED, WHY THIS?
I love what I do because it fulfills me. I have always been about serving people. I love to change lives in the littlest ways I can. As a radio presenter, I was known for helping homes and families with my radio talk shows winning me numerous awards and accolades.
As a food blogger, I learned from my audience that I was helping their marriages and relationships through cooking. Women impressed their husbands and mothers-in-law with some of my recipes. Seeing their thank you emails and having total strangers call me out of the blues to share their successful cooking tales made me so happy.
Now as an entrepreneur, I wanted to help families enjoy meal times by cooking with my passionately made spice products, that can take their cooking to the next level. I have gotten feedback from my clients and they have used phrases like “Cooking made easy”, “Confident cooking” and much more to describe my spice products and this gives me happiness and fulfillment that I am making families out there happy in my own little way.
AT WHAT POINT DID YOU KNOW BEYOND ALL DOUBT THAT THIS IS GOING TO WORK?
I knew my business was going to work because of the feedback I got from my audience who were absolute strangers. I would get calls from all over the world from women praying for me and blessing me for helping them one way or the other through my blog. After a while, they started urging me to produce something they could use. Some would say, “Matse make us pepper soup spices na!” or “Give us correct Banga spices”. I saw that there was a need for my products from these men and women both in Nigeria and diaspora and then, I decided to create my spice range.
HOW DID YOU RAISE THE CAPITAL TO START YOUR BUSINESS, ESPECIALLY WITH THE HIGH COST OF RUNNING BUSINESSES IN NIGERIA?
I got money to start my business from personal savings and family. My family has been a huge backbone for me.
HOW SOON DID YOU START MAKING PROFITS?
I started making profits within the first three months of my business. Immediately my products were launched, I started receiving orders from far and wide.
BRILLIANT IDEAS DON’T ALWAYS MEAN GREAT SALES, HOW HAS IT BEEN MARKETING YOUR SERVICES?
Social media has been a great tool for me and word of mouth. I get a lot of referrals from clients who have used my products and I am open to using various forms of advertisements as long as I can afford them.
AS A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER YOU CAN’T DO EVERYTHING, WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE HIRING STAFF AND BUILDING YOUR TEAM?
Having great staff is no easy task. I have always been a person who leads by example, so I roll up my sleeves and work. My staff see me do the lowliest chores, so they have no excuse not to work hard. I have heard them talk behind my back of how I am so different from other Ogas and Madams.
I study my staff and I try to know their strengths and weaknesses. When I see that you don’t fit perfectly in a role, I restructure and put where you will thrive.
I show them that I care and in turn, I see them wanting to work hard to please me. I hardly fire staff, when I do, know that that person is not in sync with our organization.
YOUR GREATEST SKILL/STRENGTHS THAT HAVE BEEN PARTICULARLY BEEN OF HELP IN STARTING AND RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS?
I am tenacious, determined and not afraid of handwork. I believe there is nothing like lowly jobs or work as long as you can pay your bills and have a good life. I keep seeing the bigger picture and that, keeps me focused on the prize. I may run, stumble, walk or even crawl but I have my eyes on the prize.
DID YOU HAVE TO GET A FORMAL TRAINING OR QUALIFICATION TO BE ABLE TO DO THIS?
No, I have no formal training. I am mostly self-taught. I am one of those people who read and research greatly. I built and designed my website, www.matsecooks.com from the scratch with no assistance. All I did was read, research, work and make
mistakes until I got it right. I attend conferences and seminars and will be taking lots of certification courses in the future.
YOU HAVE BEEN RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS FOR SOME TIME NOW, WHAT DO YOU KNOW NOW THAT YOU WISHED YOU HAD KNOWN BEFORE YOU STARTED?
To be honest with you, the only thing I had wish I had known was the wisdom of becoming an entrepreneur earlier in my life. I would have started my business years ago. As for every other thing in my life, I experience them as I move forward. I am open to all kinds of learning and experiences. I am a sponge and I believe I can learn from anyone, great or small.
ANY LIFE EXPERIENCE THAT HAS PARTICULARLY PREPARED YOU DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY FOR WHAT YOU DO NOW?
I cannot pinpoint a particular experience per se. I believe my life has been slowly unfolding over the years to come to this point that I am today. When I look back, I see that everything I have experienced culminated into my today.
CHANGE CAN BRING OUT A PART OF US WE NEVER KNEW EXISTED, WHAT NEW THINGS HAVE YOU DISCOVERED ABOUT YOURSELF IN THE COURSE OF STARTING AND RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS?
I have discovered that I am strong in different ways. I have seen how humble I have become. Entrepreneurship has shown me that to conquer, you need to stoop. You will have no business or clients or partners if you are nasty or arrogant. I have discovered that you need to be honest and have integrity.
Clients know honesty when they see or hear it. I have learned to just be me. I have also learned to ask for help. Never ever, ever be ashamed to ask for help…what you need may just be around the corner. Just open your mouth and ask.
THE GREATEST BUSINESS ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED AND BY WHO?
The greatest business advice I have gotten is from my mother. She says “separate your personal finances from your business finances and always keep records”. I always carry a small notebook in my handbag. I record everything.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE MOST ESSENTIAL SKILLS FOR WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS ESPECIALLY IN NIGERIA?
Firstly, women entrepreneurs should be hungry. Hunger makes you develop your hidden skills. Be hungry for information, hungry for self-development and hungry for success. When you are hungry, you find every possible way to fill your stomach.
When you are hungry for a successful business, you will be determined, innovative, resilient, open to networking and be as absorbent as a sponge…taking in the right information and leaving out what doesn’t matter.