By Prudence Minayo
Sheer determination and hardwork saw Obado Obadoh wiggle from the unforgiving grip of poverty. The entrepreneur is the managing director and founder of Nanjala Ltd, the parent company of one of the most popular restaurants in Nairobi-Café Deli and Cakes.
The cafe, which entered the market in 2007, serves more than 2000 customers daily and sells over 1000 cakes (per day). It has a number of awards under its belt including MEA Business Awards, Foya Awards, and Kenya Beverages Excellence Award.
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Here is the story of Obado Obadoh as told by WoK.
Obado was born to a 14-year-old mother who had to drop out of primary school to fend for her family. He came from a family of 17 and grew up in Dandora. They were surrounded by people who engaged in petty crimes and lack was the order of the day.
His father (a teacher by profession) passed away while he was in form four, leaving him to take care of his siblings. To make ends meet and raise school fees, he resorted to selling chang’aa, cigarettes, and omena.
While most of his friends became disillusioned with life and opted for alcoholism, he chose to press on. What motivated him was a strong desire never to be poor. In an interview with the Standard, he said that growing up he hated poverty, selling chang’aa and herding cows in the village.
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Soon after completing high school at Sigalame, he chose to look for work rather than go to college. Armed with his Form Four certificates, he was able to secure a job at Norfolk Hotel in 1990, where he worked as an apprentice chef.
For four years, he worked as a pastry chef before joining Safari Park Hotel followed by Sarova. For him, the money was never enough as he wanted to be rich.
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Venturing into Business
Obadoh unsuccessfully tried to set up a number of businesses. In 2004, he partnered with some investors and started a cake shop in Westlands. After a while, he sold his shares for Ksh800,000. The money made a way for him to form Nanjala Ltd.
Cafe Deli has four branches and provides employment to more than 2,000 people.
In the course of his business journey, he has taken some scary risks. One of the biggest was in 2011. He heard that his biggest pastry clients were planning to sell. This worried him as he thought whether the new owners would need his services.
“I got scared because I knew that if they sold the restaurant the new owner might not continue buying my pastries. The business from that restaurant made up for nearly two thirds of my revenue,” he said.
In true businessman fashion, he decided to buy the restaurant for Ksh18 million. He negotiated the price down to Ksh12 million while all he had in his account was Ksh40,000.
He left the meeting wondering where to get the rest of the money. Luckily, he found investors who helped purchase the restaurant.
The restaurant offers Kenyan cuisine to the middle class business people. While they have great coffee, tea is the most selling beverage.
Obado Obadoh is married and a father of two daughters. Growing up in a big family made him realize he didn’t want many children.
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