Culinary Wizard takes Nigeria’s Catering Industry by Storm
From being the reluctant family chef to owning a multi-service organization offering baked goods, catering and tourism services, Eric Idogun has put Pepperoni Foods on Nigeria’s culinary map.
In 2011, Pepperoni received special recognition from world business leaders, including the likes of Sir Richard Branson, at the Africa Awards for Entrepreneurs competition that took place in Nairobi, Kenya. After a rigorous evaluation of 3,300 companies from 48 countries in Africa, Pepperoni Fast Food Ltd. – along with six other companies – each won prizes of $50,000 for their entrepreneurial efforts and sustainable business success.
Rewinding back the clock, Eric Idogun traces his success to his childhood. He proudly introduces himself as a Niger Delta man from Agbarha Otor in Delta State, Nigeria. Looking back on his childhood, he remembers thinking his mother disliked him because of all her children, singling him out to prepare family meals when no one else would (a consequence of an absence of female siblings, he admits). In hindsight, he’s grateful of the training opportunity his mother gave him and ascribes his love for cooking to the times he spent in front of the stove when he was young.
After his studies at the University of Port Harcourt in Nigeria, Idogun started work as a manager at a local restaurant, where he learned the ropes from his friend and mentor. In 2005, he considered opening photo studio and printing press, but a college friend of his prevailed on him to rather invest in his current skill set and past experience. According to Idogun,
“that was my turning point and that day remains indelible in my heart.”
In 2005, Idogun opened up his first Pepperoni Fast Food restaurant in Bayelsa State at in Yenagoa. “Considering the competition in Port-Harcourt, it was a good decision”, said Eric. But the initial start-up phase was not devoid of challenges. At the time of his grand opening in Bayelsa, he discovered that the building he had acquired to run is his business had no electricity. As a result, he was forced to operate his restuarant with the help of a power-generator for several months. However, due to his hard work and excellent foresight in identifying the ideal location, his efforts have paid off despite initial problems.
A close friend informed him of a credit-initiative that the government in Bayelsa State were running, which aimed at enhancing economic development in the state and boosting the hospitality industry by means of interest-free credit facilities. According to Idogun, Nigeria is a developing economy, and as it still strongly depends on production, businesses require consistent fund injection to operate.
In our environment, there is nothing like venture capital and it is difficult, if not nearly impossible to secure financial assistance for new businesses.”
Pepperoni Fast Food Ltd’s applied for the state funding. When the application for a credit facility was successful, it allowed the organization to upgrade its quick-service store as well as open a second store with an in-house bakery in Yenagoa. Since then, Pepperoni has become the biggest brand in the south of Nigeria, with five modern outlets built across four states and other outlets being planned in major cities. The company has branched out to include also other services related to the food industry, like confectioneries production such as bread and cakes, packaged table water, a fully computerized photo company, and a sewage disposal unit.
Eric Idogun remains confident that the economic future of Nigeria lies in the hands of small and medium enterprises. His advice to ardent entrepreneurs is simple;
If you have a dream or a vision, then go for it. Get professional advice, plan, come up with actual projections and take the plunge. It is our collective responsibility to grow our economy and make our country better and it truly begins with you.”