If you are a Kenyan food enthusiast, then you have probably heard of Chanya Mwanyota, the founder of Soul Food Limited. Soul Food is one of the top restaurants in Nairobi, Kenya.
I had the privilege of trying out Soul Food’s ‘Niger Dishes’. What a fantastic meal! But I have since been curious to know the owner of this heaven on earth eatery.
After spending a day searching for answers, I bring to you the story of Chanya Mwanyota- Soul Food Limited founder and CEO.
Chanya Mwanyota: The Idea
During working as a Financial Compliance officer, Chanya Mwanyota would try out several hotels in UpperHill, Nairobi. She noticed that the meals weren’t matching her desired taste. It was also the same case for her colleagues.
On some rare occasions, Chanya would carry packed lunch to her workplace and she would hear compliments such as, ‘Chanya made pilau like the one we eat in costo (coast)’
She soon spot a gap in the food market which made her ditch the cooperate industry to venture into her own business.
Journey into the Entrepreneurial World
With 700,000 shillings in her bank account, Mwanyota started a Swahili restaurant dubbed Mataam. Since she had experience cooking Swahili food growing up, Mwanyota quickly got long-term relationships with her clients.
A few months into the business, Chanya partnered with a Nigerian who brought in a Chef and ingredients and started serving Nigerian dishes to her menu. This was after suggestions from regular customers who used to congregate at a church in the same building as Mataam.
The partnership lasted for three months. Mwanyota kept the Nigerian dishes to her menu as she sought greater heights.
The Rise of Soul Food Ltd
Towards the end of 2018, Mwanyota joined Jumia and Uber Eats platforms with an aim of getting more customers. This venture marked the beginning of Soul Food Ltd. The enterprise has grown to nine virtual restaurants with one kitchen in Kilimani, Nairobi County.
After partnering with Uber Eats, Mwanyota was advised to split both Swahili and Nigerian dishes. This move was to avoid customer confusion during ordering food.
Some of the virtual restaurants include;
- Naija Plate- serves Nigerian food.
- Mama Ntilie- specializes in affordable African delicacies.
- Shawarma- deals in Swahili Street food.
- Thai Plus- offers Asian Cuisines.
- Mapochocho- only exclusive to Jumia Food and serves all types of Swahili dishes.
- Foodiebaba- this is for Indian food enthusiasts.
Soul Food operates from the kitchen in Kilimani. It is named Mataam Swahili Restaurant. Apart from being a kitchen, the place has enough space where customers can come and dine with their loved ones.
Ms.Mwanyota says that she sources her products from small-scale farmers as well as Markiti and Wakulima markets in Nairobi.
The Bachelor of Economics graduate has grown Soul Food into a trusted brand with massive customer satisfaction. Her role nowadays is to oversee the preparation and cooking of meals.
Soul Food sells approximately 100 dishes every day. All meals range between 100 to 2500 shilling. This brings the average revenue to approximately Kshs. 800,000. This makes it one of the top restaurants that you should try out in Nairobi, Kenya.
Chanya Mwanyota’s achievement
Hard work and consistency will always pay off. This became more evident when Soul Food ranked among the top five women led-startups in Kenya.
Ms. Mwanyota received Sh.1 million seed funding through the Women in Technology program held by Standard Chartered in collaboration with Strathmore University’s business center;
Running any business isn’t a walk in the park. Mwanyota has had her own share of challenges to get to where she is today.
First, she lost 200,000 to a conman who had told her he could do the restaurant’s fittings.
Another challenge she faces is distance, in that she can only serve customers within a three-kilometer radius from her kitchen. However, she plans to use the money seed funding to expand her business in Westland and along Mombasa Road to serve a larger fan base.
- A cloudy day isn’t good for a restaurant business. Ms. Mwanyota pointed out in an interview, that during cold seasons, she doesn’t sell much.
- Understand restaurant dynamics. That’s the only way to remain relevant.
- Always meet customers’ expectations to avoid losing customers, this is a very proven method to maintain the top restaurant status.
- Remain Flexible- don’t stay stagnant. Try out new dishes, methods of operations, and marketing techniques.
Chanya uses analytics to monitor her virtual restaurants’ operations. That way, she’s able to know which one is performing well and the one operating at a loss.
She can then decide to change the name or shut down restaurants that aren’t bringing in profits.