Name: Ifeyinwa Frederick
Job title: Co-founder of Chuku’s Nigerian Tapas
Time in current role: 9 months
Ifeyinwa co-founded Chuku’s, the world’s first Nigerian tapas pop-up lounge, with her brother.
Why did you decide to start your business?
I founded Chuku’s with my brother Emeka as we’d both noticed that Nigerian cuisine lacked a presence on the UK food scene which for us just didn’t make sense because everyone we knew who’d tried Nigerian dishes had enjoyed them.
In the months before we launched we explored the idea further and decided on the concept of Nigerian tapas. But we were having these conversations while my brother was in the UK and I on the French Caribbean island of Martinique, where I was teaching English.
Taking that final leap and starting the business came down to seizing the moment. I returned to the UK in May 2015 and was due to head off again in September. It was the longest time in years that my brother and I were both in the same city so we decided it was now or never.
What are the key functions of your role?
As co-founder of an early stage start-up my role isn’t confined to one specific division. From cooking and recruitment to marketing and operations, I’m involved in it all. My brother and I divide the work between us based on our skill sets.
One of the areas I lead is communications – overseeing the planning and execution of all PR and marketing initiatives. It’s my responsibility to develop the brand strategy and devise and implement campaigns in line with the company’s voice and overall business goals. I’m always looking for ways to build our brand that will increase awareness among our target audience and create a community amongst our customer base.
Talk us through your typical working day
There is no typical day for me. I try and start working by 8am and finish by 10pm. Every day starts with me checking my inbox to see if there’s anything that needs to be actioned that morning. After that I have a quick look at our social media to see if anything’s happened overnight that we should be talking about. After that it really depends on what’s happening that week.
My brother and I meet at the beginning of each week to review business progress and set our priorities for the next seven days. Some days I’ll spend hours on the phone and travelling across London in search of our next pop-up venue. Others I’ll be drawing up media lists and contacting journalists. When it’s close to event day I can usually be found in the kitchen with my apron on preparing food.
Your favourite part of the job?
I’m a people person so I love the client-facing aspects of my job. At our pop-ups I work as front-of-house manager and enjoy the opportunity it gives me to talk to our guests and build rapport with them. I’m normally the first person they’ve interacted with from the company so I strive to make that first encounter a positive and memorable one. The conversations that normally follow are my favourite part of the job.
Being front-of-house also allows me to gain direct feedback from guests, and I can tell you there’s nothing better than hearing directly from a customer how much they’ve enjoyed and appreciated something you’ve created. It makes all the long hours worth it.
…and the part you could do without?
Recipe reviews. As exciting as it is to come up with new dishes for the menu, every new recipe needs to be recorded. This involves measuring the exact amount of each ingredient used. As somebody who grew up cooking by eye this is still something I am struggling to get used to and when I just want to get on with cooking it can be tedious.
How would your staff and customers describe you in three words?
Warm, passionate and determined.
Plans for the future?
Within the next two years I plan to open Chuku’s first permanent restaurant, and over time I intend to open several restaurants across the country and globe.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs/freelancers?
If you have the idea, just start. Whether it’s registering the company name with Companies House or calling your first potential client, take that first step. You’ll never have all the answers and there’ll never be a right time so you might as well start today. And yes, it will be tough but it’ll always be worth it. LLY