Bunmi Awoyale, the CEO of 2 Bees Services was a banker turned caterer whose outfit has catered for many prominent citizens in Lagos and across many states. Though she has continued to count many blessings in her endeavours, she has never despised her little beginning as she tells Funke Olaode, how a taxi driver on her street and a cleaner in her former place of work gave her a breakthrough
Can we have an insight into your background?
My name is Bunmi Awoyale. I am from Ogun State but married to a Kwara man. I was born in Isolo, Lagos State. I had my early education at Our Lady’s of Apostle Secondary School, Yaba. I went to Federal Polytechnic, Offa and later Kwara State Polytechnic where I majored in Banking and Finance. I served in a furniture company at Allen Avenue, Ikeja. While waiting to get a normal job, I dabbled into business of buying and selling. I used to go to Dubai to buy things.
I later met a taxi driver who connected me to someone at Trade Bank where I later got a job as a banker. This man was a God-sent because I didn’t know that he lived on my street. You know I travel a lot and most times it was my senior brother that used to come and pick me at the airport. That particular day, my brother didn’t come on time and I had to look for a taxi.
I didn’t know this man used to live on my street. While we were going this taxi man just engaged me in conversation and said ‘Madam, you are too young to engage in buying and selling. Why don’t I look for a regular job?’ He said if I don’t mind he has someone at the Trade Bank that would help push it. He collected my CV. I didn’t know that anything would come out of it. I wasn’t at home the day interview letter came. I went for the interview and passed, that was how I got a job at Trade Bank.
What lesson has life taught you in this regard?
Never to look down on anybody. I have learnt that anybody can be your helper and this is what has helped me up till now. I don’t look down on anybody. People that have helped me so far in life are what people will refer to as ‘Commoners.’ The person that gave me my first breakthrough in my catering business was a cleaner in my former office. When Trade Bank was defunct in 2005/2006, this girl was one of our cleaners at the Trade Bank and she asked me if I am still into catering business, I said yes. Then an arm of the judiciary on the Island wanted to organise a seminar and they needed a caterer. That was how I was able to penetrate into the place. I am still enjoying the opportunity till today.
What do you think endears you to people?
I don’t allow things to weigh me down. I try as much as possible to look things in a positive way. I can say what endears me to people mostly is that I laugh a lot. I am a very jovial person. I give audience to people no matter who you are. You know the kind of job I do sometimes put you under pressure. As you know human beings are complex and it takes patience and understanding to be able to handle them. My mantra is that ‘customers are always right’. For me, I hardly shout or scream. Before I leave home, I would have prayed. So my composure really helps.
At what stage did you develop passion for catering?
While growing up, I had always been interested in anything that has to do with parties. If my family wanted to organise something I was always in the forefront giving advice and all that. I was about 15 years then. If my brother is organising street carnivals or going to the beach I was always there. When I was working as a banker, I knew within me that it was for a while that I was going into anything to do with parties be it event planning, indoor and outdoor catering, gift packaging and so on. When the bank got liquated, I re-awakened my passion and went into catering business fully in 2010. Prior to that, I was into selling of children and baby wears.
How has it been in the last six years?
We have been busy catering for people all over Lagos and Nigeria as a whole. As I said earlier, our services are not restricted to indoor and outdoor catering alone. We are also do event planning and gift packaging. Without sounding immodest, there has never been a dull moment in our business as each passing day opens a new vista. We have clients who are high and mighty. The arm of judiciary I mentioned earlier, has been our client over the years. We have catered for politicians, private individuals (highly placed). We have catered for 2,000, 3,000 capacity events. We have catered for weddings, burials, chieftaincy titles etc. We do both continental and intercontinental, Nigerian meals of different cuisines.
Do your clients get satisfaction from what you do?
Yes. It has been a roller coaster for our company over the years. When our clients get satisfaction, they refer us because we go extra mile to live above board in service delivery. So, apart from this year, when the economy is a little bit slow, God has been good to us.
How has it been taking care of the home front?
My husband has been helpful. He is a good man who is passionate about me and what I do. And sometimes when I have multiple jobs he helps to oversee them. He is good at logistics and seeing him around puts everybody (my staff and outsourced staff) on their toes. He has been of tremendous help in terms of finance as well. I am not always at home but he copes well. He is a very nice person, which has made life easy for me both at home and at work.
You have just talked glowingly about your husband. How did you meet?
I met my husband when I am working at Trade Bank. We were on the third floor and he was on the 18th floor. I was looking for where to send an e-mail because our bank wasn’t on-line at that time. I stumbled on him and he assisted me and the rest is history. Ironically, when I met him I wasn’t interested in relationship but when a man looked at you and had this unusual impression. As time went on, he was of help to me in my job because I had mandate to get money as a marketing officer with the Trade Bank. He was of tremendous support. We got married 13 years ago and it has been good.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Last six years has been good, the next five will see us expanding. I want to have a catering school whereby I will impact knowledge and empower people. For me, I didn’t go to any training school. I learn on the job, networking and surfing the Internet on catering also helped me. It is not everybody that has that kind of opportunity. So I will be happy to impact people.
Are you fulfilled being your own boss?
Yes, I am. While I was working at the bank I had projected that I was not going to work more than five years. Unfortunately, the bank went down and instead of wallowing in self-pity I saw it as an opportunity to launch out and re-awaken my passion. Today, I have no regrets.