The #NairaLife Of A Moin-Moin Specialist Looking For Catering Gigs

November 16, 2020

Every week, Zikoko seeks to understand how people move the Naira in and out of their lives. Some stories will be struggle-ish, others will be bougie. All the time, it’ll be revealing.


Do you remember how much your first job paid you?

Ah yes. My first job was at the Federal Palace Hotel in 1988. This job came after I finished catering school. My salary was ₦125; I also got an allowance that took my money up to ₦165. Back then, taking a taxi to work cost about ₦10. 

Ah, interesting. 

Yes. I started as a waitress working at the restaurant. Then, we used to entertain all these company executives and government officials. In those days, whenever there was an event at the banquet hall, I was usually picked to attend to them. 

Do you remember how much you earned when you were leaving? 

I can’t. I had all the documents, but everything was lost when my father’s house got burned in 1996. I think it was around ₦1,000 when I left in 1993. My older brother took me to a newly opened Ecobank branch to sell food to the staff. 

Hmm. How much did you sell food at the time?

I can’t remember the actual amount, but I remember that the staff I was catering to used to buy my fried rice and plantain. I left there in 1995 — I had to go and give birth to my second child. Then my third child came some years later. 

You already gave birth to a first child? 

Yes, I did. I had my first child in 1991. In fact, I was working at the Federal Palace restaurant throughout my pregnancy. It was an easy pregnancy, so I could work. But when my second child was born, I was always sick, so I  was at home a lot. After the birth, I started selling moin-moin and akara. 

Do you remember how much your moin-moin was when you started? 

Yes! It was ₦10 for plain moin-moin. Then later, I started putting eggs. Half an egg made the moin-moin ₦30. Moin-moin with a full egg was ₦50.

I have sold moin-moin since then. In fact, in the area where I used to live, they used to call me moin-moin special. 

Moin-moin special!

I’ve been doing it for about twenty-four years now. Although, now I sell rice at my stand too. I’ve also been doing catering work for events. Remember, I’m a professional caterer. 

Well done ma! What’s the most memorable job you’ve done since you started catering? 

The Sports Festival in 2012. I was one of the people selected to cater to athletes and officials during the festival. My job was to cater to 100 people, thrice a day.

The festival lasted for 13 days. That’s up to 3900 meals.

The thing is I was even preparing food for more than the required every day.

The government paid ₦2.3 million before we started and paid another ₦2 million at the end of the tournament. A lot of that money went into buying things like freezers and equipment for cooking. 

I imagine that you had some money after you’d settled all your bills. 

Yes. I put it into a fixed deposit and spent from it till it got to ₦200k. There’s always something to spend on. That period, my last child was entering secondary school, so I bought him all the things he needed for school. 

Another business I’ve done is cater to schools. 

Tell me more about that

One of my friends was having a conversation with someone, and the person mentioned that they needed a caterer at their school. My friend introduced me to that person, and that’s how I began. I’d package the food and get people working for me to distribute it. At the height of it, I was selling food to four schools. 

But I had to pause. 

Why?

We moved to where we now live in 2018, which is very far from where the schools are. So when we moved here, I applied to another school here and started from there.  

I’d like to understand how you think about the money you earn. 

When you’re running a small business, the only thing you’re thinking of is your daily contribution. When I first moved to the area where I now live, I started ajo at ₦500 per day. But they can also run away with your money. 

Ah. 

Yes. One woman ran away with my ₦10k a few years ago. Another person has run away with my money too. 

Do you trust them?  

The thing is, you can’t do without them. They always come to you. Even when I did it with one bank, they sent someone every day. They said that instead of Alajo, they’ll help us keep the money, and we’ll collect it at the ATM.

There was one man that used to come here. He’d collect my money, and I won’t see alert. I found out later that they sacked him because he was stealing people’s money. 

Wow. About your business. Since you’re thinking daily about earnings, how do you plan market runs? 

Before, I used to buy in bulk, but now, the price of everything is high. A bag of rice is too expensive. Over the years, I’ve watched a bag of foreign rice go from ₦6,500 to ₦30k. The gains we used to make have reduced. 

But in the end, we cook every day so we can get the money to pay for what we bought first, and ajo next. My current ajo is ₦7,500 per week. Currently, all the money I have deposited is ₦82k.

How do you manage to support your family and pay bills? 

You know this life is not balanced. Sometimes, you’ll make the money. Sometimes, you won’t. One time, I had to pay school fees for my last born, and then I couldn’t afford to pay rent after. It was my other two children that are now working that helped me pay for it. 

Do you have a sense of what your monthly budget is? 

I can’t even say right now because you’ll be thinking of A and B will come up. For instance, I gathered some money to use for something, then a tap in the house went bad. Then the fan. Before I knew it, I’d already spent ₦6k. That wasn’t in my budget. The money from my ajo that I wanted to use to buy something I needed, I couldn’t. 

Do you understand? 

Yes, I do. 

I also have to worry about paying my staff. I used to have four people working for me, but when business wasn’t moving, I reduced it to two. One collects ₦1k per day while the other collects ₦500 per day. 

What’s a good day like money wise for your business? 

It’s not been much, especially this year. In fact, when we were in lockdown, we had to live on our ajo contributions. 

What’s something you want right now but can’t afford?

Moving affected me, and COVID-19 too. I need a better place to stay, like a shop (instead of selling from this small shed). If I can rent a shop, I’ll be able to buy freezers and stock up. 

Talking about retirement, when do you think you’ll be able to retire or reduce the stress? 

In this business, it’s your staff that will determine how much rest you get. Unless I get a food place that’s not small where people can now know you, it’s hard to retire. When you have a bigger place, you’ll get more customers so more staff. You’ll also be able to pay them well. One of my staff wants to leave in December. 

Another thing that will help is if I start getting parties to cater for regularly. 

Do you have any plans for emergencies? What do you do when you get sick? 

No, I don’t have any plans. Last year, I was treating malaria, but I think it was stress. My children have told me to stop coming here, that they’ll give me money. But I tell them no, I’m not an old woman yet. The only thing is, I wish I had a shop where I can sit down comfortably. 

Do you have any financial regrets? 

One time, I wanted to buy a piece of land for about ₦80k, then one of my friends told me, “Ah, have you told your husband about it?” I told my husband, and he discouraged me, so I spent the money. I immediately regretted it. 

How would you score your financial happiness, on a scale of 1-10?

I can’t even score it. I’m not happy about my business. This is not how I expected it. I’m just doing it because I have to. My day starts at about six in the morning and ends around eleven at night sometimes.

You know, there are some things that give you joy at the time you’re expecting it, but the joy is not here at all. I’m not really getting what I expected. There’s so much I want to pay for that I can’t. Yesterday’s own is not cleared, today’s is still here too. 

The thing that will make everything better is when I can start catering again. A shop would reduce my stress. I’ll score it when I feel like my business is better. 


If you’re interested in talking about your Naira Life story, this is a good place to start.

Find all the past Naira Life stories here.

Fu'ad Lawal

Join The Conversation

Bring a friend.

You'll like this

March 30, 2020

What’s your biggest fear? Snakes? Death? His biggest fear is not a person or people, it’s a system, a culture. What’s your oldest memory of money? My mummy took me and my brother to this park, which was close to where we lived. After riding one of their motors, I wanted to go again and […]

Watch

Now on Zikoko

Recommended Quizzes

November 7, 2019

These days, everyone is always talking about how much sex they’re getting, or how little sex they’re getting, or how disgusting sex is etc. There’s just so much talk about sex, it’s almost impossible to know who’s lying and who’s telling the truth. In anticipation of our new series about the sex lives of young […]

November 20, 2019

Last month, we thoughtfully made a quiz telling you guys exactly when you’ll marry, but some of you claimed that your spouse was nowhere to be found. Well, now we’ve created one that’ll tell you exactly who you’ll be dragging down that aisle. Take and start planning that wedding: 11 Quizzes For Nigerians Who Are […]

November 1, 2019

Twitter is buzzing right now, bringing a new conversation to the concept of cool vs not-so-cool, especially in relationships. If you’ve been thinking about how much of a red flag you are, why don’t you let this quiz help you decide once and for all?

April 1, 2020

Everyone has a Nigerian bank that matches their personality. You could either be as likeable as GTB, as efficient as Access or as mature as First Bank. Either way, all you have to do is take this quiz and we’ll let you know with almost 100% certainty. So, go ahead:

February 26, 2020

Are you all set for marriage, or are you still figuring it out? Well, if you’re curious to know the answer, then this is the quiz for you. All you have to do is create your own ideal Nollywood wedding film, and we’ll tell you if you’re ready to say “I do”. Go ahead:

More from Naira Life

August 23, 2021

This week’s Naira Life is brought to you by QuickCredit. With QuickCredit, you not only get the funds you need instantly, but you also get to pay back at the lowest interest rate in Nigeria. On this week’s #NairaLife, this 30-year-old lady’s quality of life nosedived after the death of her husband in 2020. Her current […]

Watch

Trending Videos

Zikoko Originals

December 14, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
November 2, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
October 26, 2020
A collection of videos documenting some of the events of the EndSARS protests.
June 22, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
June 22, 2020
Hacked is an interesting new series by Zikoko made up of fictional but hilarious chat conversations.
June 4, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
June 2, 2020
Quickie is a video series where everyone featured gets only one minute to rant, review or do absolutely anything.
May 14, 2020
Isolation Diary is a Zikoko series that showcases what isolation is like for one young Nigerian working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
March 12, 2020
Life is already hard. Deciding where to eat and get the best lifestyle experiences, isn't something you should stress about. Let VRSUS do that for you.

Z! Stacks

Here's a rabbit hole of stories to lose yourself in:

Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.
X