Growing up in Nigeria, my mum instilled a strong work ethic in me from an early age. She ran a catering business alongside her day job in the public sector. When she got a big order, we would all help. I envied my friends going to parties. But it prepared me for what lay ahead.
I studied law, then got a job at a bank in Lagos. After a few years, I left to start my own law firm. I really enjoyed this time but it wasn’t conducive to raising a family. So, I joined the legal department of the National Board for Community Banks. The job came with more regular hours and less travel.
In 2008, I had to escape what had turned into an abusive marriage. I feared for my safety and that of my children. I didn’t have a well-thought-out plan. I just packed our cases and left for the UK. It was scary – I was 45 and my kids were 15, 12 and 9 at the time.
My two eldest have now graduated university and with the other one currently studying for a degree, I decided I needed to do something for myself again.
I have always enjoyed cooking. Mum was a great cook but a strict teacher – she was all about getting things just right. My grandmother made me fall in love with how food should be prepared and enjoyed. She liked to use a small number of fresh ingredients to make food that tasted amazing.
When family and friends started asking to buy my food, I knew there was a business idea there. But I didn’t know where to start. Also, at that time, my confidence was low. The Ice Academy helped with both. It taught me about things like marketing and research. It also restored my self-belief.
My target is professionals who don’t have time to prepare good, healthy food. I also cater events and parties. I’m diabetic so my diet is low in fat and sugar. It’s mainly traditional Nigerian dishes but I love fusion. My speciality is my chilli sauce. My children love it, and they are my fiercest critics.
I’m not making a living out of it at the moment, but I have big plans. I work night shifts in a care job so I can cook during the day. Eventually, I want to sell my food and sauces through supermarkets, as well as having a catering side. I want Nana Nokki to become a household name.