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How to start an event and catering business


Are you unemployed, browsing the web and looking for vacancy adverts with email alerts of new openings from Jobberman and co flooding your mail box on a daily basis? Or, maybe you have a job that pays your bills but you are restless because you want to be somewhere else, doing something else that gives you joy. Perhaps, you are a super working mother (wife, mother and career woman), hoping for a change that will offer you more stay at home time with your family.

What do you love doing and where lies your passion? Almost any hobby can be turned into a business once you identify those who have a need for such services. Some event or catering businesses were started out of passion of the owners, to help someone they know organize an event or handle the catering of an event.
Do you love cooking? Is making an event venue look beautiful your thing? Or have you been to some events and wished the planner had done this or that with the arrangement of the decoration?

Pattyclues Events and Decor

Perhaps, you have given starting a business in event management or catering a thought before but feel discouraged for reasons such as:

·        too many people already doing the business
      ·        no fund for startup
      ·        no idea of the needed skills and tools etc.

Well, two professionals are here to give us tips on these.

The number of people doing the same business has actually hindered a lot of people from starting their own businesses. Instead of focusing on the number of people doing the business, why not focus on the number of people who will need your services in the future?
Dooshima Uza, CEO of Dosh Events and Catering, Abuja, told me in an interview that capital is not the first thing you need to start a business like this.

“What you need is the will and you have to have a passion for what you are about to venture into. Once you have these two, the sky is your limit. But if you take these two things out, no matter how much you put in the business, it might eventually run down.
“In catering for instance, if you are good but have no capital, you can start by cooking for people and they pay for your services. They bear the cost of all that is required for cooking.”

I love this part most because you really need no funding for this. There are many homes (very busy career wives or even bachelors or older couple whose children have all left home) that employ the services of a cook once a week. They buy all the food stuff, or give you money to buy and you go over, cook for them and get paid.
Master different types of meals
One way to ensure that you are always called is to master as many dishes as possible. Be able to cook Igbo, Yoruba, Niger Delta, Hausa etc. dishes. Versatility is the key. Recipes are all over the web. The more you practice, the better you will become. Your clients will advertise your services to their friends and family and before you know it, you are being called upon to cater an event.

You can also look around your neighbourhood for schools and submit a proposal to be the school’s caterer. If accepted, you get to make the school lunch for the school children whose parents are willing to pay the school for that service. Many mothers – if they can trust the school to be hygienic enough not to compromise – will sign up for lunch for their children. It saves them for getting up very early to prepare a lunch box. But, where children are concerned, you have to be extremely careful with everything you do, including your ingredients.
Iquo Patricia Udoh, MD/CEO of Pattyclues Events and D├ęcor, Lagos, said for event planning that it is important to know your customers’ taste.

“Everybody is unique and will want his or her event in a certain way,” she explained. “We all have ideas and dreams on how we want to celebrate our special days, so I try to get to know my customers ideas and dreams and do my best to bring it to actualization.”
In planning events, you can start with the small events of friends and family members without charging any money. Child’s naming or dedication, birthdays, anniversaries and even the end of year party at your place of work etc. are opportunities. If they aren’t big affairs, use them as an opportunity to launch yourself by offering to plan them for free.

Necessary tools and skills needed in this business include:

·        In event management you need to have good ushers; a good team of people to work with who are result oriented. In catering you need to have good pots, chafing dishes, a very good refrigerator, trained cooks and waiters, Uza said. Now, ushers have to be paid. But as a newbie, you can organize some few friends to help you and teach them what has to be done. All you have to do is give a dress code and colour.

·        You have to be creative, you should have not just a team but a reliable team, you should have patience and also, reading is important; I read about events a lot and it really helps, Udoh said.

·        “And also,” Udoh adds, “you have to be very organised. Definitely, you have to be meticulous because every detail matters. You must be a good manager of time because from the moment you are hired to do a job, time is never enough. You have to be careful about everything, from the lengths of ribbons to shades of your lights. It is no small task but proper planning sees you through.”

Required training needed include:

·        Formal or informal training depending on your time and what you want to specialise on. Informal training takes 6 to 24 months while of course formal training takes 4 years or more in a university or polytechnic, Uza said.

·        Contrary to what some intending entrepreneurs say about working under someone, Udoh believes the best kind of training one can get is to work with already existing event companies. “There, you’ll see all the mistakes, the sacrifices, the deadlines and everything about making an event. Though I hear people study it now as a course, I don’t know how much that would help, but I think being outside and trying to match the colours and lighting effect would help shape your skill better.”

To stay relevant in the field, Udoh says it is a must to keep up with trends. “The fast evolving nature of event designs tend to keep you on your toes, I try my best to be up to date with what is out there. For example you buy an assorted lamp today and the next hour you see something more beautiful from the same manufacturer. And before you know it your accessories are obsolete. So to stay competitive I try to move with time.”
There are lots of events happening every weekend, especially in Lagos, and while the start might not be easy, it is definitely not impossible to tap in and get your business running.

In September 2013, I attended the ‘Fourth Youth Stakeholders Forum’, organised by the Afterschool Graduate Development Centre, AGDC in collaboration with the Lagos state government.
At that event, Governor Fashola, while talking about the numerous business opportunities around us, said the party/event industry of Lagos state alone was a multibillion industry.

“We did a study between October and November last year (2012) from Thursday to Saturday night through Sunday morning every week for four weeks and involved 1,555 parties with a sum of N1.2Billion Naira. The total picture in the State is about N3Billion every month and people are partying heavily in that sector,” the governor had stated.
So, it isn’t the number of people that are doing the business you should be worried about, but starting yours and being better than the next person, and tap into that multibillion industry that needs caterers, event managers, fabric traders, fashion designers, hair stylists, drink distributors etc.

I do not want to preach the gospel, but I like that place in the bible where a widow cried to Elisha about the death of her husband and the debt he owed. The prophet asked her, ‘what do you have in your house?’ and she replied ‘nothing except a jar of oil’. Well, that jar of oil caused a turnaround in her story.

In the same way, what you have in your hand (that skill and passion) can cause a turnaround in your employment story also because almost any hobby can be turned into a business once you identify those who have a need for such services.

Nevertheless, remember this: no matter what type of business you are going into, be professional, dedicated and passionate about your work.