Traditional Dishes Pay Dividends

Published on 20th May 2008

For Pamela Muyeshi, The Proprietor of Nairobi based-Amaica The Restaurant eating house, small ideas have the potential of bringing bigger returns. Pamela's passion for culture and enterprising personality pushed her to set up a restaurant for cultural development, a year ago. Despite the fact that her ideas did not make sense to some of her close friends, she soldiered on, determined to excel.  A few months later, through the restaurant’s unique cultural concept, Amaica has become a household name in Kenya. Anthony Odeo of The African Executive met her and filed this story:

 Q. Amaica The Restaurant, what is so unique about it?

 A. Amaica speaks for itself. It refers to the dining area amongst the Luhya community in western Kenya. This is a restaurant that serves not only culturally indigenous foods from western Kenya, but also promotes healthy living through eating the right foods. In Amaica, we believe that food has all the nutrients our bodies require. We therefore serve our food with two major objectives: to keep our clients bodies free of junk food and to remind them of the sweet traditional diets.

 Q. How was Amaica born?

 A. The restaurant is a culmination of many other small ventures whose rewarding returns necessitated a bigger investment. Ten years ago, I set up an ice-cream business. I did not have an idea of how interesting the business world would be. It was when I was running the ice cream business that I developed a business culture within me. This confidence led to the birth of two other businesses:selling clothes from Dubai to meet the need for unique clothes of good quality and importing cars. I did car importation for three years before consolidating enough funds to start Amaica a year ago.

 Q. How did you come up with the Amaica cultural concept to business?

 A. It is basically an opportunity that presented itself. Many times I would go out with my friends to hotels and other restaurants in town in search of good meals. Unfortunately, all we found were the conventional meals like those served in other hotels worldwide. The foods lacked an original taste and a personal touch in the way they had been prepared. It is for this reason that I thought a cultural restaurant would serve my friends and others who did not prefer conventional feeding habits. 

 Q. How have you managed to grow  this fast?

 A. Commitment to my dream of making Amaica a leading brand in cultural foods has been paramount. Even when I am away at work, I still manage to coordinate and make decision about the business in consultation with the restaurant manager and other employees. Our excellent service has also contributed to an increased and steady customer base. Their loyalty is our pride.

 Q. Where do you see Amaica in five years?

 A. I see a regional brand that keeps, develops and promotes cultural foods for a better African people. Amaica will have grown into a brand synonymous with healthy eating. The restaurant should also have developed its core business into expanding its services capacity in terms of serving indigenous foods from all parts of the continent.

 Q. Your restaurant hosted a cultural food festival recently, how has this impacted your business?

 A. While I may not evaluate the immediate impact the festival had on the population, I must admit that if the response from media and the support from the government through the ministry of culture and social services is anything to go by, then Amaica is headed for greater fulfillment of its agenda: making cultural foods everyone’s favorite. 

 Q. What is your advice to upcoming entrepreneurs?

 A. Beginning small is the way to go. Success in small ventures is almost a guarantee for success in bigger ones. It all depends on your attitude toward your venture; it is of essence that you start a business with an objective beyond money making. As you meet your objective, the returns will automatically fall in place.

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