Chanya Mwanyota is the founder of Soul Food.
She was inspired to get into business when she would go to food joints with her colleagues but didn’t find value for their money either.
Mwanyota identified a gap that needed to be filled and later in 2018, she quit her job to venture into entrepreneurship.
Here is her story as told by WoK.
Mwanyota worked as a finance compliance officer for a firm headquartered in Upper Hill, Nairobi.
During lunch breaks, she would walk to food joints alongside her colleagues but the food did not satisfy their desire despite spending.
At some point, she started carrying packed lunch to her workplace and she would get compliments how her food was good.
Inspired by this, Mwanyota weighed her options and after identifying the gap in the food market, she took the bold step and quit her job.
With a Ksh 700,000 capital, she started a restaurant dubbed Maatam, serving Swahili cuisines only.
Months into the business, she brought a Nigerian partner onboard and introduced Nigerian cuisines to her menu.
“Since I didn’t want to give customers substandard dishes, I partnered with a Nigerian who brought in a chef and ingredients, then used my kitchen,” she said.
When the partnership ended, Mwanyota continued preparing Nigerian dishes.
Mwanyota introduced the menu following a growing demand for Nigerian foods by customers who used to attend church in the same building as Mataam.
Although the restaurant still retains the name Mataam, Mwanyota established Soul Food Ltd after joining Jumia Food and Uber Eats.
Following the partnership with the food apps, she was advised to split Swahili and Nigerian dishes to avoid customer confusion.
Mwanyota went ahead to introduce virtual restaurants including Naija Plate serving Nigerian food, Mama Ntilie specializing in affordable African delicacies and Shawarma dealing in Swahili Street food.
Others are Thai Plus offering Asian Cuisines, Mapochocho which is only exclusive to Jumia Food and serves all types of Swahili dishes, Grandma Ruks for traditional meals and Bhajia Shark for Indian dishes.
“In an attempt to maintain my sales, I am trying to appeal to every eater out here, hence the numerous restaurants,” Mwanyota said.
The virtual restaurants operate from one kitchen in Kilimani, Nairobi where Mataam Swahili Restaurant is hosted.
Soul Food sells approximately 100 dishes every day at between Ksh 100 to Ksh 2,500 shilling, bringing the average revenue to approximately Ksh 800,000.
In July 2022, Soul Food was among five local women-led tech-based businesses that were awarded Ksh 1 million each to help scale their businesses.
The startups were selected from a group of 380 companies that competed for the prize courtesy of Strathmore University-based business incubator iBizAfrica and Standard Chartered Bank.