The CEO of Lilly Cakes, Confectioneries and Foods Company, Ajibola Bamidele Jeje tells TMG how her love for cooking mouthwatering dishes got her into this line of business. A graduate of Mathematics and Statistics, she is married to Dr. Olusola Jeje and a mother of 2.
TMG> Why did you decide to become a caterer?
Ajibola> My late elder sister was into catering services. She catered for Nigerian Custom Service, Abuja. I was always assisting her during school vacations and at weekends when less busy. Through the assistance I was giving her, I started developing a passion for culinary gradually. I never thought it’s a profession I would go into but my love for culinary grew stronger day by day so I decided to follow that line of business.
TMG> Did you go to culinary school & management classes? What credentials did you earn through your classes?
Ajibola> I acquired a formal training in baking and spent 10 weeks to learn the rudiments of baking at Lagos, Surulere to be precise, by one of the top cake decorators in Nigeria (Da Cake Master)
TMG> How many employees report to you?
Ajibola> All of my 5 employees are part time staff.
TMG> Give us an example of someone you have trained or mentored. Where did they start and where are they now?
Ajibola> Funmidelight was once my student. She has her own outfit and she is doing excellently great.
TMG> What do you do to stay educated about new trends?
Ajibola> I update my knowledge specifically by being online. I am also member of various online culinary/baking groups- we inform ourselves about new inventions on a daily basis. We share ideas too and correct each other where necessary.
TMG> What are your challenges and how do you intend to handle them?
Ajibola> Speaking on the challenges I’m facing, my major challenge is reaching out to clients because the environment I found myself is not encouraging for the type of business I’m into. To salvage the situation, I aim to set up an outfit as I am still operating from home. Adding to that, when I set up the outfit, I would place jingles and adverts on radio stations and various social media platforms. I also intend to plan sensitization programme to create awareness for students of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun state.
TMG> What do you do to ensure that the quality of the food going out to customers is the best?
Ajibola> I ensure I put in my best by using fresh perishables, good quality ingredients and by supervising thoroughly as required.
TMG> How do you take ownership of your position e.g (look for guest interaction, financials, organization, cleanliness, quality of company)
Ajibola> I take ownership by doing what I have to do knowing fully well the outcome of whatever event I handle will bounce back on me. Therefore, I don’t take chances in carrying out all that is expected of me.
TMG> How do you ensure/test the quality of your ingredients?
Ajibola> I make it compulsory to try out new recipes often in my home.. so I explore with the ingredients I experimented with.
TMG> Tell us about an accomplishment that you are most proud of in your career.
Ajibola> One of them was catering for Guinness Nigeria during a seminar workshop which lasted for days and it was massive.
TMG> Tell us about your management style and how you handle your Customers?
Ajibola> I treat my customers with so much love because without them, we wouldn’t be here today. Wisdom, patience and understanding is what I use as my key words.
TMG> Tell us 3 things that you consider to be your strengths as a caterer?
Ajibola> Independent, disciplined and self control
TMG> Tell us something you would like to learn or improve on?
Ajibola> I would like to be a professional Event planner because it’s related to my business and I have passion for it.
TMG> How involved are you in the beverage aspect?
Ajibola> I am involved in beverages as well- I make cocktails, mocktails, smoothies and local drinks for events.
TMG> How do you handle labour cost? If your labour is running high, what measures do you take to control it? Especially with financial issues now.
Ajibola> I would work with my client’s budget so that I balance both sides by making my clients happy and my profit won’t be discouraging at the end of it all.
TMG> How do you resolve the menu development to make good or quality food?
Ajibola> We are all good chefs in my family but as a professional, I have some tactics which makes me stand out.
TMG> How unique is your cooking and what do they think of you as a caterer?
Ajibola> I am unique in my own way plus everyone that tastes my meal always want to ask for more, more so because it’s well packaged.
TMG> What way can you encourage other youths to be self reliant?
Mrs Ajibola> I beseech all youths most especially those who intend going into the Culinary to stay focused and consistent. Never depend on government jobs. Be independent, keep your head straight and stay away from trouble. Don’t relent in whatever you have passion for. Be sincere in all your dealings with people and don’t be lazy because Catering is highly tedious.
TMG> Do you have time to socialise and how?
Ajibola> I try to make out time for myself and family to have fun and socialise. I attend events too in my free time.