Esther Mbinya was employed for only two years before the business bug caught up with her. She started with a fast food joint, which later grew into a restaurant
Sandra Wekesa @andayisandra
Esther Mbinya is what you would call a hands-on manager. When we meet her at her hotel in Ruai, she is frying some meat and always keeps an eye on the sufuria to ensure the onions don’t burn.
Between our conversation and the hawk-eye she keeps on the sufuria, you can tell that Esther is passionate about what she does. After a few minutes, her food is ready to be served.
At that time, it is lunch time and customers flock in the hotel just to have a taste of her food.
Esther, 26, is the owner of Essy Taste Buds Restaurant in Ruai. Esther’s zeal for catering began when she was 12 years old. Whenever she got to the kitchen she would try and mimic her mother and would eventually come up with new recipes.
“When my mum cooked, I would watch her and make sure I got the little details about making a good meal,” she says.
Having acquired basic skills in her home kitchen, Esther did not give up on her dreams, as she decided to take it further through pursuing a degree in catering at Nairobi Institute of Business Studies (NIBS). In as much as she had good catering skills, she made sure she got enough knowledge to help her in application to her daily life.
As soon as she completed school, Esther landed herself a job in an Italian Restaurant in Westlands as the hotel supervisor and Customer Relations Officer. She worked there for two years.
As the firstborn in the family, Esther had to put on two hats and fill the space of being a good example to her younger sibling as well as a mother to her six-year-old boy. She juggled between working hard enough to help her mother and saving some money to start a business.
After two years of employment, she decided to start a restaurant.
“I got tired of being employed, I also wanted to put what I learnt in college to practise. It was not easy, but at that time I craved for a bigger challenge. While getting started, I didn’t know how best I could make things happen.
I always knew being an entrepreneur isn’t a cup of tea, but I decided to venture into it anyway. I vividly recall when my business was still new, I had issues with accessing supplies from farmers. At times the orders would come in late. I started business with a fast-food joint in Umoja,” she adds.
She explains that through outgrowing the challenge, she got the courage to take up outside catering and deliveries.
Her business grew so fast that she was shocked about how far she had come. To her, home deliveries boosted her business as such services were rare in that area.
She explains that her breakthrough came months later when she decided to feed her customers with chapatis that were made through mixing her dough with carrots and corriander. Soon enough she was pocketing Sh15,000 from her business a month.
Despite starting as a fast-food joint with just three employee, she felt the need to expand it. She was looking for a suitable place with good ambiance away from the hustle and bustle of Umoja estate.
She explains the moment she moved the business to Ruai, it was difficult fitting in, but adjusting became easier for she had already established a clientele. In just a few months she was already the talk of the area.
Esther strongly believes that her business has picked up quickly despite the change in location because of the services she offers. She also learnt a lot from the mistakes she made in her first business.
At the moment, Essy Taste Bud is worth Sh500,000, a feat she credits to her friends and family. “I have been going through a lot of problems with the business, but I eventually managed to make ends meet,” she says.
Her parting shot to anyone who wants to venture into restaurant business is patience pays. Also the power of a great chef and quality food makes you grow.