Hello you! My guest today is Naa Oyoo Quartey who simply describes herself as a mom of a two-year-old and a restaurant owner. Her restaurant is Essi’s Eatery- a farm to table eatery.
Enjoy her story…
Ama Duncan (AD): Naa, Oyoo thank you so much for making time to share your story with us today. Among other things, we know you as a digital content creator for lifestyle brands. What’s the story behind your decision to become a chef?
Naa Oye Quartey (NOQ): Thank you for the opportunity Ama. My journey has been quite interesting. I used to blog a lot. My interest in food actually started more from when I started blogging about recipes and creating new recipes using our local ingredients. Don’t get me wrong, I love traditional Ghanaian meals but I was like is there a way to cook our local ingredients in a different way? Can we incorporate certain ingredients into say Kontomire or garden eggs? Can we switch up things a bit to make it more interesting? That led to more recipes for the food blog. And I would write about some Ghanaian food storage, where our dishes come from or what inspired me to make a certain dish, etc.
It was pretty fun and along the way some people were like ‘you are here creating all these foods and we cannot eat some’ and ‘all these nice pictures, what’s all that?’ One day I was like let me show up at the Garden and Flower Show. I sold Asana and Meda drinks because they are so similar but people are not able to tell the difference. My first time was more of a tasting experience. People loved it. The next time, I made clay oven-grilled glove pork from Jamestown with Ga Kenkey, etc, it had a very distinctive taste. That also did very well. I sold out on the first day. The second day was so good too. That experience was so intense! I was on my feet the whole time. And then I got pregnant and was home for a while trying to take it easy because I lost my first pregnancy. I was very nervous this time anyway but thank God everything was fine. During this rest period, I started thinking more about what to do next. I was already doing social media consultation and training for organizations.
I decided to start something around food because people really liked my food but I didn’t want to do the usual jollof and local dishes. I decided to do Ramen- an Asian dish. My few travels abroad exposed me to this dish and I had already made some at home. I made it more Ghanaian with a little bit more chilly. I drew up a whole plan of what I was going to do with a brick and mortar business. I was cooking from home while the shop was being set up. That was a disaster actually because delivery companies weren’t so reliable and effective in 2020 as compared to now. This delivery company messed up my orders so I wanted to just set up the restaurant properly.
AD: Amazing! And you had no catering training! And so you had a brick and mortar restaurant; what was the impact of COVID-19 on your business?
NOQ: At this time, COVID-19 had hit China but we were not really paying attention to it. I got this space in East Legon and paid the rent. East Legon rent is another story. But it was such a very good location and I was hopeful. Then we (Ghana) had our first COVID-19 case, lock down… restaurants couldn’t open! I was just home watching the news in that state of not knowing. It was extremely scary because I had invested so much money and the rent was running whether the business was open or not. I prayed. A sermon by Dr. Mensah Otabil – don’t look at the wind, keep doing what you have to do – really encouraged me. When the lockdown was lifted and they said restaurants could open with no in-person dining, I was like ‘yes!’
The interesting thing was that my restaurant was located in East Legon, where many of the initial cases were. I decided not to look at that, I had waited for too long. I got and trained a Sous Chef and a waiter. And God being so good we started well. I started connecting with suppliers via Instagram, researching online for factories in Ghana that could supply, etc. Thank God that digital marketing was my strength. It became even more crucial to be online because nobody was coming in even if we had a signboard outside. Everybody was online. I was taking and uploading photos, sharing them everywhere, creating content, using WhatsApp, etc. In the latter part of 2020, people started coming in to dine. Business was still good but we didn’t quite have the number of people. With the high cost of rent and everything, I decided to find a new place I could live and operate from. That’s when we relocated to Osu – where we are now.
AD: Wow! This is a story of resilience, congratulations Naa Oyoo, you are truly The Fabulous Woman! Majority of our followers are women in business; what lessons from your journey can you share to help us as we adjust to the effects of COVID-19 on our businesses and lives?
NOQ: It wasn’t easy. I feel like as a woman we do not get it easy, there are too many demands and responsibilities on us. Therefore, I think being committed to your goals and being disciplined is very important. People may not understand your vision, you have to be very committed to that idea and vision. Always learn. For me I learnt a lot. Have an open mind to learn new techniques and ways of doing things. Even though I was pretty good at doing social media I still had to learn how to use the latest apps like TikTok and others to improve what I already knew. I faced a lot of challenges including flooding in my neighborhood, being a first time mum, etc. God really came through for me. I lost a lot of weight and I thank God that right now I’m looking fresh. Also, create a tribe for yourself – a tribe of women that you can trust and are supportive. They are not only just supporting you in prayer but in your business as well. Further, get a mentor. I believe that having a mentor to help you in whatever you are trying to achieve really helps because a mentor who has been successful in an area that you are not so good in will be a very good guide for you because no woman is an island.
AD: So true! You promised to share tips about using WhatsApp Business in your business; we are eager to learn please
NOQ: I didn’t know WhatsApp business was a separate app until I searched online.
1. Get a WhatsApp Business account.
2. Turn on your notifications. Your notifications for your business account should always be on, be responsive and respond early and quickly because you are not the only supplier of that particular goods or service, the person will move on to the next person fast.
3. WhatsApp Business comes with various tools and I love them. The catalog helps you list your products and services. Get good photos of your products and services, put them in your catalog. The catalog for me is very critical. I don’t want to waste time on “what do you have?” and “can you send me pictures?”.
AD: Ah thank you! You’ve just reminded me that I need to update my WhatsApp Business Catalog! Now, please complete the following with a short phrase or sentence:
If I could advise my younger self, I would say…
Be patient with yourself and be patient with the world, you know life is short. Learn to live for yourself, take care of yourself, your mind, your body; life is so short. One minute you are here the next minute you are gone and so be kind to others.
I am fabulous because…
God made me fabulous. He made me different in how I am and I’m grateful for how I am. I am fabulous in my own way.
One book that has greatly helped me in my business is…
The Bible. I’m not trying to be cliché or anything but trust me in business you are dealing with a lot of people – clients, suppliers, etc. I take everything to God basically – ‘Lord increase me, increase the work of my hands, strengthen my hand, etc. I get tired but the next day I have new strength. But if you are looking at business books Dale Carnegie’s books are great too, e.g. How To Win Friends And Influence People.
AD: Wonderful. I totally get you on how powerful the Bible is especially for entrepreneurs. Now tell us Naa Oyo, how do we find you?
NOQ: Essi’s is everywhere: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Maps. Just search for Essi’s.
AD: Thank you so much Naa Oyoo, you are so resilient, so fabulous! God bless you.
NOQ: My pleasure Ama.
Goodness wasn’t that powerful? I kept getting goosebumps after goosebumps while interviewing Naa Oyo. Like seriously, without God, how will we do this ‘CEOing’?. And I loved the tips she shared on using WhatsApp business as well. It’s been very valuable for me personally. I will encourage you to check it out and also the link to check out is Essi’s Eatery.
And before I let you go, have you signed up for the International Fabulous Women’s Conference yet? Please, do. Let’s bring our fabulous selves together from 4th – 7th March, 2022, Fab Hub Ashanti, Aboabo Kesse, Kumasi. See you!