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Building an empire by the beach

Hashim Omar Hashim’s desire to dip into the culinary business saw him move from a lifeguard to a trainee chef, with an affinity for Thai and Indian cuisine and now to owner of a thriving restaurant and resort

Eager to put his skills to the test, Hashim Omar Hashim left his career as a lifeguard in the Middle East to return home to work at his father’s restaurant in Diani, South Coast.

He took over the reins in 2009 and upgraded the BidiBadu Restaurant’s menu to seafood and a la Carte. His seniority in ranks demanded a firm grip of the job and to achieve that, he remained under the tutelage of the eatery’s main chef.

They, however, had to relocate from the area seen as a red light district following complaints from uncomfortable clients.

Thrown Out

“We were close to a nightclub bustling with sex workers. Families were uneasy with the proximity of the club to our restaurant. We, however, managed to uphold our reputation and when we moved, our clients flocked back,” says Hashim.

Business had just reignited when the property’s owner evicted them. They were forced to move to the shores of the Indian Ocean, where they are currently based. Hashim’s friendship with Kenneth Matiba’s son, Gitau Matibu, earned him an optimal spot on Diani Beach.

“He had a vacant beachfront property and when I asked him if I could set up shop on it, he didn’t hesitate to bail me out,” he recalls adding that he had to spend more than Sh200,000 to clear the dense thicket and to make a road before he could put up the restaurant and bar.

On reopening, there was a surge of clients that outnumbered the minimal space they had. 

“Beach front restaurants, hotels and bars are very expensive here. When we put up one that locals could afford, word went beyond and there was an overflow of people,” he says.

They had to improvise by using beer and soda crates for tables. People didn’t mind, they just wanted good food, especially seafood. This popularity came at a price. His neighbours were not happy with him.

“Most hotels around here are owned by foreigners and are highly priced. This means some are open seasonally and their employees go jobless when this happens. I decided to come up with a concept that kept us operational throughout the year and this was not well received. Some of the hotel owners frustrated us by constantly calling the cops without valid reasons,” he says.

His vision was to provide everything that his clients wanted at affordable rates and help in promoting domestic tourism.  The success of this joint led to the birth of BidiBadu Beach Resort three years ago. He teamed up with Tostin Salm, or Mr T, to set up a holiday beachfront property, a few minutes away from its older sibling. He had been grooming his younger brothers who now run the restaurant and bar while he oversees the resort.

“Mr T approached me for equity in the business, but I put his request on hold because I wanted this brand to mature before bringing anyone else on board. Here we are now,” he says.

New Venture

The resort, maintained by 20 employees, has 14 rooms, two villas with eight and five rooms and five makuti bungalow hostels named Zanzibar Village. Each bungalow has a distinctive design with six, four and two beds in backpackers’ style, available at a daily rate of Sh1,500 per person. The other rooms go for Sh5,000 for two, inclusive of breakfast. Getting a sea view room costs an extra Sh2,000 for two.

“People want to spend less on accommodation and do more activities. I want people to come to Bidibadu and also go to other hotels to experience their hospitality, go for activities and come back to chill or sleep,” he says.Keeping guests satisfied with proper maintenance of the resort could rack up anything from Sh100,000 a week or even higher during high seasons.

Bidibadu has branched into sports entrepreneurship and is selling clothes in Europe. Plans are underway to set up a local store on the continent.

Hashim acknowledges the integral part his team plays in the daily operation of the business. “I have an amazing team that efficiently run this place even in my absence,” he adds, saying that his open secret for success in the hospitality industry is building a reputation that earns you trusts.

He has given back to the community by building a mosque, digging a well and constructing toilets. He hopes that more young people will become industrious.

“I want young Africans to be empowered and see that they have the skills to own and run property. Their forefathers sold off their land at cheap rates and now have been left to be beach boys and girls but it is time to change that,” he said.

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