The Reality: Running a successful business in London with Chuku’s – here’s how you can too
I’m back with The Reality Series part 2 and I’ve brought my first ever guests over to the blog.
I sat down with the brother-sister duo who own and run London’s first and only Nigerian tapas restaurant, Chuku’s. Besides breaking boundaries, being featured in multiple media outlets such as VICE, Time Out, ELLE and running the London chop, chat, chill experience these two remain extremely humble.
I caught up with Ifeyinwa and Emeka to find out how they’ve managed to start a successful business in London.
First of all, why a restaurant?
Well, it was never the case of simply opening a restaurant but more a thirst to share our Nigerian heritage and culture with London.
Although we’ve lived in different places, London was our first home, our family base and we noticed the absence of Nigerian cuisine on the high-street. There’s been a growing interest but still a lack of establishments and we wanted to change that.
We had been speaking about starting this up for a long time and it got to the point where we realised you have to do something or you need to stop talking about it.
Being talkative people we knew we would not stop talking about it, so we had to do something about it, hence why we ended up doing this.
Tip 1: Be sure of the exact demand in the market, brainstorm and champion the idea then execute.
Given the traditional eating style of Nigerian food why tapas?
We realised that people eat with their eyes first so we knew we needed to do something that would capture the eyes and minds of the London public. This led to the small plates idea.
After reflecting on my time in Spain I realised that this was tapas! I remembered the elements of tapas where it’s not just about the food but the whole culture and experience (Emeka).
Socialising and dining go hand in hand in Nigerian culture. As they say: “if there’s no jollof rice it’s just a meeting right!?” This married so well with tapas culture.
Tip 2: Be confident in your craft, even if it’s unconventional or completely opposite to traditional expectations. Once you have a clear and relatable message to your approach people will believe in your idea. Even if your industry is saturated find a niche – a personal story or experience is a good place to start.
How do you stay inspired?
Being in London has been a huge source of inspiration in itself. The benefit of being able to explore different cultures in such close proximity is great.
Also travelling elsewhere and placing oneself in a new environment inevitably leads to inspiration.
It’s also about having our eyes open constantly. We could be sitting on a tube and we might just spot something. Since launching Chuku’s we operate on a higher level of awareness. Running a restaurant and running a restaurant well requires attention to detail and you take that around with you.
Tip 3: Even if your business is booming remain hungry and willing to learn from every angle. Go out, explore, network, remain open, observant and open to new ways of thinking.
Business partners but also siblings, how has it been?
Hmmmm (I think that was Emeka haha).
In business your energy levels fluctuate so frequently and to have someone who knows you so well, it works really well. We are able to complement each other with our differences – I love it!
Tip 4: Even if you don’t have the advantage of working with a family member, find a business partner that understands you, your approach to work, as well as what makes you tick.
What’s next for Chuku’s?
When we started this we always wanted to have our own restaurant; a Chuku’s site where people could chop, chat, chill on a permanent basis.
The pop-up format was used to see if people really want it and the people want it, so the permanent site is next.
Tip 5: Evaluate, do your research and give your consumers what they actually want. As often as possible be sure to carry out market research because consumer tastes, disposable income and even your target audience can change at any point in time.
What advice would you give to young individuals seeking to start a new business?
Be prepared to make sacrifices.
Get savvy about how you use your time and money from the get-go.
You can still enjoy life while saving, you just have to be creative with how you go about obtaining enjoyable experiences.
Focus. This is especially important in a big city like London where there’s so much going on.
Have great ambitions to climb that ladder but take it step by step.
Keep knocking on the door and be prepared to be patiently persistent.
Peace & Love