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25 Kg of Potatoes a Day

6:30 AM – Starting the work day at the Toits Rouges Allocodrome

We started this lunch delivery/catering business in January. We had no employees, just the three partners – me and my two former couchsurfing hosts, Faty and David – and Faty’s neighbor Didy. Our maisonette was unfinished and we didn’t yet have our space rented at the Allocodrome, so we crammed into David’s mother’s kitchen and prepared food for our first client. It was stressful and chaotic, but we pulled it off. Soon after, we were delivering 10 plates of food every day.

We have come a long way. To see previous posts on the growth of the biz, here is Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Last Friday, we sent out 100 plates of food for lunch delivery. We are going through 25kg of potatoes a day. Our clients include large telecom companies like MTN, Orange and Moov, several banks, the post office in the business district and the tourism bureau. When it comes time for me to renew my visa or seek residency, I will be going to an office that orders food from us.

Right now, we have 12 employees. 5 delivery guys, 3 chefs, 4 kitchen helpers. Our original chef, Michelle, has been promoted to head chef. She manages the kitchen. One of our delivery guys, Didier, has been promoted to manage the other delivery guys and to prospect for new clients.

Things are moving. At the same time, we have been battling high food prices – a product of Ramadan and an overall rise in global food prices – and we have struggled to tap into the business of serious bulk purchases. Also, while we deliver to many offices, it’s not as if everyone in each office orders from us.

Our next step is to grow this thing responsibly. To maintain our team, to take on new clients and maintain our existing ones, and to streamline the kitchen and connect with more wholesalers. In the next several months, we also want to add weekend events to our catering program.

There are a lot of moving parts to this business. Perfect days are rare. But every day feels like an accomplishment and we can all sense the momentum.

We have a daily post-work staff meeting. The adrenaline works its way out of the bloodstream and we joke around, reflect and share ideas. We still don’t know entirely what we’re doing, but we’re quickly figuring it out.

Here are a few pics:

This is our call center. Different phones on different cell networks, some for talking to clients and others for talking to our delivery guys.

Assembly line of delivery guys and kitchen staff

Michelle is our head chef. When she started she was soft-spoken and shy. She now leads the kitchen and generally kicks lots of ass.

Didier, recently promoted to manage the delivery guys and to prospect for new clients, carries this book around with him. It is part of a series on business management. This one focuses on sales tactics and the art of negotiation. All of our delivery guys are in their early-mid 20’s. All of them have their own talents. If things work out, they will grow with the biz. Same goes for the current kitchen staff.

The kitchen staff. These women are incredible. We are lucky to work with them.

Likely taken after the deliveries went out.

More updates to come..

Travel update: In Abidjan for the next several weeks before going back to Bamako for a short stay. After that, a couple nights in Brussels and then the states between mid-September and mid-October, before coming back to West Africa. I am currently staying at Faty’s dad’s house, where I have been on and off for the past year and a half. It is loud and crowded and a lot of fun. Last night, tired of playing the Paris version of Monopoly, we got started on our own Abidjan version.

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{ 20 comments… add one }

  • Monique August 15, 2012, 8:02 am

    Great achievement all round and it brought such a smile to my face while reading this post.

    • phil August 17, 2012, 3:39 am

      Thanks for the support, Monique :)

  • Will Jackson - The Bearded Wanderer August 15, 2012, 8:25 am

    I love reading about the trials and successes you’re having with your business and travels.

    Great stories, well told. Biggups.

    • phil August 17, 2012, 3:43 am

      Glad you enjoyed, Will.

  • Laura August 15, 2012, 10:56 am

    Although I imagine it is rare that you have a smooth and easy day, it sounds like it’s working out pretty well! And look how many people are being employed. Well done :)

    • phil August 17, 2012, 3:44 am

      The employment aspect is the best part of this. We also got very lucky with our hires.

  • Balsamic Benny August 16, 2012, 2:57 pm

    This is incredible buddy!! Love the pictures, love the kitchen, LOVE the call center…..

    Amazing what can be done with limited resources, amazing cooks and a little entrepreneurial spirit. Keep it up brudda!

    Looking forward to seein ya in bout a month. One Love!

    • phil August 17, 2012, 3:46 am

      appreciate the kind words, Benjamin, but don’t like seeing “balsamic” anywhere on this site 😉 You want to tell me more about this fast jet boat from nyc????

  • Linda August 16, 2012, 3:36 pm

    Did my heart good to read this. Your success is utterly wonderful and an enormous testament to the hard work and enterprise all of you must have put in. It does, indeed, show what can be done with the will to work and initiative. Not only keep it all up but keep on posting to show others what can be done too.

    • phil August 17, 2012, 3:48 am

      Thanks for the kind words, Linda. Always appreciate your support. Many more updates to come!

  • Julia August 16, 2012, 5:23 pm

    Awesome update on the business, Phil. Keep up the awesome work that you do

    • phil August 17, 2012, 3:49 am

      Thanks, Julia. I’d like to think I do awesome work, but it’s mostly the people I work with!

  • Malou Suskin August 17, 2012, 6:51 pm

    Et qui épluche toutes ces pommes de terre ? Toi ? Je plaisante, Bravo, bravo! J’admire tout ce que tu as fait . Ta vie me semble vraiment extraordinaire et bien remplie. Encore bravo et bon courage !

    • phil August 26, 2012, 8:27 am

      C’est pas moi hein! 😉 Merci bien, Madame. J’espere que tout va bien chez vous.

  • Dad August 21, 2012, 10:22 am

    Keep it up–If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. I am proud of you (but still worried)!

    Love, Dad

    • phil August 26, 2012, 8:27 am

      True words, Father

  • Dalene August 25, 2012, 12:20 pm

    I am proud of you but still worried too. (Your Dad is so cute!)

    I LOVE reading these updates. Truly amazing and inspiring. The world needs more camel-drawing peeps like you.

    • phil August 26, 2012, 8:29 am

      The world does need more camel drawing. Thank you for recognizing, Dalene! And thanks for the encouragement L)

  • GHT-Sunil August 30, 2012, 3:49 am

    Nice reading.Inspiring.
    Go on!!!

  • Malou Suskin January 28, 2013, 6:06 am

    Bravo Phil ! Je suis vraiment impressionnée par toutes tes aventures et ton culot. Que tu apportes tant d’énergie et d’amitié à tes amis montre à quel point tu t’es intégré dans ton nouvel environnement. Je te souhaite bon courage dans cette entreprise et t’envoie toute mon admiration et amitié.

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