Mrs. Oluwakemi Kuforiji is a successful business woman and the CEO of CLK Nigeria Ltd. She left for London at a very young age and she is a Bachelor degree holder in Management from Westminster College, United Kingdom, though she was once a taxi driver in London. She shares with Ayobanji Olawuyi of PublicFaces Magazine how her daughter inspired her to come and establish in Nigeria; how she respects the poor in the course of her business and other sundry
What is CLK Nigeria Limited all about?
CLK is about catering, we supply drinks for party, we have waiters and waitresses but our major job is catering.
How and when did you start CLK Nigeria Limited?
Looking at it, I’ve been in the industry for a very long time but if I am to be specific, I would say fifteen to twenty years ago. It started in London where I used to be an Events planner, a Certified Balloon Artiste (CBA) and I taught people how to be Balloon Artistes. I had to quit when there were too many people in the business. After a while my daughter insisted I venture into catering since I love cooking which is also what I studied in school. So, that was what gave birth to CLK, we started in Nigeria about 6 months ago and we thank God.
While you were growing up, what other businesses did you try?
While I was in London, I worked as a taxi driver; I also ventured into transportation business in Nigeria bringing in trucks.
In what year did you make your first million?
(Laughs). That is a big question but I think it’s between 1997 and 1998 and I was doing logistics then.
How do you go about your business?
I do it by myself and I’ve got people that work for me but I am the kind of person that I don’t really allow people to do things for me and it’s not that I don’t trust my staff but I just like to be in
charge and supervise everything , so at the moment, I am in charge.
How do you manage the challenges of profit and loss?
We thank and praise God. I don’t really think one can lose in the food business.
What about the challenges faced in the course of delivering jobs?
The challenges in Nigerian businesses are too much. I studied and worked in England and when you get jobs in England and they say it’s 2000 guests, it’s2000! Unlike Nigeria where they will tell you it’s 2000, you will see 5000. Sometimes, 3 days to the event, Nigerian Clients have not made up their minds, and for me that is a major problem. I am still trying to work with it because if I had trained here, it probably won’t be like this but I know with time I will blend in because if I should put into practice what I was taught in England, it won’t work here.
If you get a job for 1000 guests and your find 2000 or more, how would
We just have to try our best and I make sure I double the numbers in order to avoid something like that. I do not want to ruin my reputation. I always make sure my clients feel satisfied with services I render.
How often do you get jobs?
We get jobs two to three times in a week.
How have you been able to get and manage your clients?
I thank God because it’s not by my power but by God’s grace. Like I said earlier that I’ve been in the entertainment industry for a while, I am not an actress or a musician but I am close to most of them, I entertain them when they come to London and that’s the reason I did the launching to create an awareness and up till now some people don’t believe I’m around. To be honest, the kind of clients I’ve gathered within six months, I didn’t expect it in two years, so I thank God all the way because I’ve never let them down and any food you taste at my party, I do all the cooking myself.
How have you been able to cope with competitors?
One factor I’ve noticed is that a lot of them out there don’t know about the job. For instance, I know about the job from A-Z, I studied and practised it, I’ve got the experience, I’ve worked
in a Restaurant, a Hotel even as a waiter in London and studying helped bridge some gaps but cooking has always been a part of me because no one taught me how to cook and I have been cooking since I was young. All my friends can testify to this. Everybody can cook but for me, cooking is natural to me. Some of them can’t cook so they employ people to do it for them and even when the food doesn’t taste to their best, they would accept it that way. What I cook is quite different from others because I bring all my ingredients from the UK and I can say I’m one of the cheapest caterers in Nigeria.
With your enormous list of influential clients, do you have provision for middle and low class clients?
Definitely! I even prefer those clients because they will appreciate you. Cater for everybody, my
friend would say,” Kemi we can’t call you because you are too expensive”. If you call me to cater for 10 people I’ll come because I know you will call me when you have a thousand or more. We have package for everybody because sometimes poor people pay more than rich people. If an ‘Okada Man’ calls me to come cater for him, I am ready to go. If a poor man wants service of #50,000, I am ready to do it and I would put the same amount of strength in it like it’s a big job because you don’t know who is going to be there noticing you and I know they will appreciate me and I appreciate poor people too because rich people like to show off (laughs).
What can you say about the notion that caterers always go home with cooked foods and food items meant for clients?
I can only talk about CLK, I can’t vouch for others. Most of my stuff, I buy them, some people are called ‘Olopo’ and some ‘caterers’. I wish all the caterers can come together to create an Association to fight against this notion, because caterers have a very bad reputation in the society. My staffs are aware that I don’t encourage such attitude or behaviour, if I catch any of them doing it, I become very pissed off. I have even sacked few of them who tried it.
Has a client ever accused you of this act before?
Yes of course.
In what ways do you give back to the society?
Whenever they need my assistance for any charity or event, I give what I can to help.
How do you deal with staff incompetence?
Well, I make sure they learn to do things my way and I’m glad that the little staff I have understands me and the reason is they know they can learn from me. It’s not easy to manage staff in Nigeria but I’m trying.
Where do you see CLK in the next five years?
Mostly corporate jobs, making lunch for Multi National companies and organizations so that I can employ more staff because my aim is to help eradicate unemployment in Nigeria and not necessarily five years because. I believe and know with God’s help, I’ll get there within a year. Also, I’m thinking of opening a Catering School, I’ve got the facilities and utensils, so maybe after a year or two.
Are you married?
No, but I have a daughter.
What is the secret behind your outfits and looks at events?
It’s God. People know I’m a very simple lady, I don’t wear make-up, I don’t do my hair and that way I look nice. I love to look good, clean, different and unique, that’s why they say Kemi shows off too much. I just love to be different, even my hairstyle. It’s nice to be natural.
How did you come about the chieftaincy titile of Yeye Oge of Iju Ishaga?
I got the accolade in 2010 and I was in London so I had to come get it in Nigeria.
What is your favourite food?
The only thing I eat is rice.
For the sake of our readers who don’t know who you are, kindly tell us about yourself?
I am Oluwakemi Asabi Kuforiji, I was born in Atan Ota under Ado Odo Ota Local Government area of Ogun State in the 1970s, I am from Abeokuta and my parents were educationists. My dad was a
principal and my mum was a teacher. I have two brothers and three sisters. I had my primary and secondary education in Owode Yewa and left for London immediately I finished. I enrolled in Westminster College, London as a Chef and later became a ‘Comic Chef’ under City Guild level 2&3, I later proceeded to National Vocational Qualification (N.V.Q) level 2 as a waitress and I did a professional course in Hotel Management (H.C.M.A) and right after my degree, I secured a job at Croydon Hilton Hotel as Head Waiters where my knowledge and experience were put into practice.