The quote “Embrace what makes you unique even if it makes others uncomfortable” by Janelle Mona√© perfectly describes Winniefred Leche, a 24-year-old woman who is passionately pursuing what she loves and knows how to do well. She is the founder of Soups and Stew Kitchen, a catering business in Nigeria. She has taught over 400 people how to cook including men and women. I love that regardless of what people have had to say about her, the challenges here and there, she is still very determined to succeed in her business.

Winnie is a fun-loving and energetic person. She has this joyful aura attached to her personality and it’s really awesome. I got interested in what she was doing when I noticed her good manner of approach and excellent customer service to clients and prospective clients. From the way, she markets her business, interacts well with people, shares her faith excitedly, and shows love to everyone around her. I figured this is such a rare gift and it should be commended.

Too many women put their lives on hold waiting for a man to come to sweep them off their feet, some put their trust in chariots, horses, and sugar daddies who send them money every now and then just to fit into the life society expects them to live. But, here is one independent young woman making a difference and doing so much to contribute to society.

She is positively influencing one person at a time and it’s such a great delight to have her share her story and experience with us. I hope her story encourages you to be all you’ve ever wanted to be. Enjoy!

Great to have you here. Please tell us more about yourself and SAS Kitchen?

  • My name is Leche Winniefred Maagawa. I am 24 years old. I am a French graduate of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. I am the CEO of SAS Kitchen and also the Founder of SASK Initiative. SAS Kitchen is a Nigerian based catering business registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). I do weekly cooking for people who are very busy with work and do not have the time to do it themselves. I also do office lunch deliveries, I cook for events, etc.

How did SAS Kitchen start? I know you’ve always loved to cook. How did you develop an interest in what everyone sees and celebrates today?

  • Wow! I have a very strong passion for cooking. My passion started as a teenager about 10 years ago even though my Mum never allowed me to cook then. I only used to unwrap seasoning cubes and drop in the soup?
  • In 2016, as a 200 level student, I used to cook and invite my friends to come over and eat because I felt so happy anytime someone ate my food and gave a wonderful compliment. One day, I invited a friend over to lunch. After eating and giving his lovely compliment as usual, he asked me if I’d like to start making money from my cooking.
  • I said yes and he told me how a friend of his used to cook for the Master’s students in school and they store it in their fridge. I was so happy. Prior to that, I had never thought of making money from cooking. I just enjoyed it.

SAS Kitchen is a certified and registered company with the Nigerian Corporate Affairs Commission if I’m right? How old is your business and how long did it take getting SAS Kitchen certified? Was the process easy?

  • Yes, SAS Kitchen is registered. My business is 3 years old. It was an online registration and the process wasn’t easy o. From searching to see if my business name is available (to be sure that nobody else is using that same name) to paying online when I secured the name, to downloading the documents sent to me by CAC, to going to the court for signing, etc… It wasn’t funny. I lost zeal at a point to continue with the registration but it is all history today, to God be the glory.

I believe becoming the woman you are today is really not easy but, you make it all seem easy with your good manner of approach and excellent customer service. How do you do it? What has helped you thus far?

  • *clears throat* well, sincerely, it has not been easy running a business. Especially for the fact that I started it as a 200 level student without any financial support.
  • Firstly, I would say it’s been God who has brought me this far.
  • Secondly, my strong passion for what I do has helped me too. Most times, I offer much more than I’m paid for and my customers thank me even after paying me.
  • Thirdly, my family members are my greatest fans. Every time I want to do anything that pertains to my business, they are willing to give me the necessary support I need. Basically, all these have helped me come this far.

Did you face any challenges or setbacks when you started newly? How did you overcome them?

  • Yes oh, I faced so many challenges. I’ll talk abouttime, even the major ones. My first and greatest challenge was dealing with advances from some male customers. You Know what I mean? I had to draw the line between pleasure and business. I had to remain professional the whole time, even though I used a friendly approach. I knew my goal and I kept my focus on it.
  • Also, I faced the challenge of doubt. Many people doubted my ability to prepare and deliver what they wanted because I didn’t ‘look like it’. A young girl like me should be facing my studies ? but here I was telling people to trust me with their stomachs. I handled that by reassuring them that I could do it and I also offered to give them free meals to taste.

You do quite a lot of personal cooking’s for great men and women across Nigeria. Now, can you tell us the kind of risk associated with this type of business and how anyone looking to start a similar thing can avoid them?

  • Hmmmmmm the risks involved in this business aren’t so much, as far as I know. But the major risk is your health. Having to cook for hours every day close to the fire isn’t pleasant to the body. Sometimes I run temperature when I’ve stayed too long close to the fire because I use firewood to cook when the cooking is much.
  • Anyone who is looking to start this business should first develop an interest in cooking. You can easily lose it if you don’t have the interest. Also, be sure that you’re healthy enough to start. An asthma patient may easily choke.

If you were asked to list a certain level of skills needed to succeed at what you do, what would they be?

  • Good cooking skills: This is important because there are a million and one cooks all over the world. Your food should give them an unforgettable experience.
  • Packaging/Branding: This is important so that your food looks attractive and not regular. If food is attractive to the eye, you begin to crave it.
  • Good negotiation skills. You need to learn how to negotiate with your customers. Knowing your expenses and all.
  • Good communication skills help you know the right approach to use when talking with a customer.

How do you positively affect your community with your business as a woman in the 21st Century?

  • I affect my community by giving back to the society. I run an online class where I teach interested people how to prepare various soups.¬† The classes started in November 2017 with 20 participants, which I did for free. For almost a year, I taught every batch for free until November 2018 when I put a fee of #1,000 which can still not be compared to what I teach them. The students themselves say that. From its inception untill now, I have taught over 400 people how to cook. Also, I use the proceeds from my business to fund my organization, SASK Initiative, which focuses on reaching out to prisoners.

What’s been your greatest aspiration and desire for SAS Kitchen?

  • My greatest aspiration is to make SAS Kitchen a household name. Just like Dangote is in every home, by the Grace of God, SAS Kitchen will also be in every home. A time will come when every home will have someone who has either been my student, tasted my food, or used my products.

Lastly, what’s your advice for anyone out there looking to start something they are really passionate about, but may not know how to go about it?

  • My first and sincere advice is for you to start. Once the idea feels right to you, don’t wait for the perfect condition to start because it will never come. No idea is fully formed like that. When you begin, the idea unfolds step by step. A goal without action is a mere wish. Don’t expect people to believe in you from the scratch. When you have started and people can see your effort, they will support you.

Hope you learned something from the interview. If you did, kindly leave us a comment below.

Connect with Winnie on IG: @winnie.leche or contact her on 08083343585 or 08060504195. She delivers within Abuja, Kaduna, Zaria, Lokoja, Kano, and Jos.