|Omotade Johnson pictured in white|
When he lost his banking job, Mr. Omotade Johnson swallowed his pride and took his destiny in his hands. Today, he makes ends meet through frying and selling puff puff at Igando bus stop in Lagos, writes Peter Uzoho. He was one of those who lost his job due to bank liquidation in 2009. Omotade Johnson, a graduate of Mass Communication and former staff of the defunct Intercontinental Bank PLC, would groan only for a while and then, had to moved on as a man.
After losing his bank job, he resolved never to apply for any paid job again. He decided to do something differently. He buried ego and pride, rolled up his sleeves and started the puff puff business. “Formerly, I worked with Intercontinental Bank PLC. That happened shortly; I lost the job when the bank got liquidated and everything went flat. But, as a man, you have to work and I can’t see anything I can’t do. So that was why I joined the new trend”, the resilient Johnson tells THISDAY.
Fortunately, when he relocated to Lagos in 2012, he met his friends who were into confectionery business and that caught his interest. Subjecting himself to learning the nitty-gritty of the vocation, he was taught by professionals in the business, who could be younger to him by age, but older by virtue of mastery of the trade. He was humble and really wanted to learn.
“The business has been on for the past 11 years; I met it in 2012, when I came to Lagos. I never went to school for it, I learnt it from my friends who were professionals in the business. Although, some of them were younger than me in age then, but that never mattered to me, because all I wanted was for them to teach me how to fry and all other things involved, which they obliged and taught me, even without demanding I should pay money for the training. So, since I joined, the business has been good; I don’t have anything to regret. I’m not lacking any money”, Johnson explained.
Unlike some who despise their occupation for the right or wrong reasons, he loves what he is doing.
“I love the business. It’s quite a profitable one. Of course, if it’s not, this my team you see working here wouldn’t have been here. Because you can’t just wake up early in morning, stay here till night without going home with something that is worth the time and you continue working”.
With his cheerful look, alluring tone and quick service delivery, he has been able to establish good rapport with his regular customers. He knows them by their names and even categorised them by the motive of their patronage.
“I’ve good and reliable customers and we are very friendly to ourselves. Some of them come to buy for personal consumption. May be, they are hungry and need something to eat, so they would decide to go for snacks. They may not want to eat heavy food at that particular time.
“We have people who buy it as appetiser; they’re waiting for the main food and need something to keep them ready. Even some take it as after- meal. You know some people like to take something immediately after their meal, not that they eat too much, but because it’s something that they are used to.
“We also have people who buy it for use at events; they want to use it to refresh their guests. Corporate organisations, like banks, do come to buy for their events, associations come as well, and those who are holding birthday parties, weddings and all such events patronize us too. They know the quality of our snacks and the level of satisfaction they get after eating it and so have no better option than to come to us. So, on the whole, our customers cut across working class people, organisations, school children, bus drivers, okada riders and roadside traders and so on,” he noted.
The affordability of the product is among the reasons why he records high patronage. “It’s cheap and affordable to both the rich and the poor. You don’t have to pay more. The puff puff and buns go for N10 each, doughnut is N20 while egg roll is N50”.
However, contrary to the belief that the business is a tedious and demanding one, he said he finds the job very easy and interesting.
“Frying is a natural and normal thing that people do on daily basis. Frying puff puff or buns doesn’t require much; it’s just to mix the flour with other ingredients, leave it for some time, to get to a certain state and then, you start frying. So, I don’t think the process involved is hard. And for the raw materials needed, flour must be there, there must be yeast, butter, sugar, and sometimes, milk,” Johnson further explained.
Johnson and his team are professionals who work in synergy; putting their combined efforts in the business to maximise profits and are paid commensurately.
“We work as a professional team. Everybody puts his best in the trade. With the combined efforts and contributions from all of us, we are able to make enough good sales and profits and we pay each other accordingly. It’s a partnership kind of business.”
While most people think it costs huge amount to start up the business and dilly-dally in taking decision on whether to go into it or not, Johnson said the start-up capital is relatively low and affordable.
“To start up the business does not require one having millions. The minimum amount to start it could be within the range of N100, 000 and N120, 000, which I think is not that much compared to the amount of money people spend on drinks. Anybody that is determined to save for it can do it without much stress. Though, we all know that everything is going up right now. So, for the basic things needed for it; flour must be there, which is the major raw material for the production. There should be burner, gas cylinder, the gas itself and some other things. You know without money, you can’t make money.
“Also, you need to have money to pay for space where you will stay to do the business. You can see where we are; we pay for it every year. This is Lagos and you know you can’t run a business here without paying for the space you are using.”
For the business, rainy season is the ideal period and that’s when greater sales and profits are recorded. “We love rainy season; that’s when the business moves well. During rainy season, people will want to take something hot because of the coldness of the weather. They like it when it’s hot to balance the body system. So during rainy season, the business is very lucrative because that’s when we make more sales.”
For Johnson and his team, the bar is raised for ‘A & B Concept’, his organisation. They dream of seeing the business flourish and become the cynosure of all eyes. “Everybody has a dream; if God blesses us beyond, we will move A & B Concept to a state where we will be happy to see it flourish and people will want to behold it.”
However, in spite of the joy he derives in the business, one thing stands as a clog in the wheel of his lofty dream. From time to time, officers of Kick Against Indiscipline, an agency of Lagos State Government and the Federal Road Safety Corps, would come and destroy their goods in the name of discharging their responsibility, which would make them start all over again.
“The KAI and the Road Safety come around and sometimes, they would destroy and throw away our market, despite the fact that they know the situation in the country. I don’t know if they expect us to go into stealing or kidnapping. If you see young men coming out to hustle, I think you are supposed to give them that grace, encourage them and allow them do their business. But instead, you come and destroy their market, pack their things and go away. They will start all over again and you still come back to do the same thing. It’s really worrisome and that’s exactly what we are passing through here”, Johnson said.