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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. 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 and my confidence was low. UP Collective helped with both. It taught me about things like marketing and research. It also restored my self-belief.

The combined experience of the employment and business components was beautiful. It helped me be more committed, find my rhythm and be more confident. Your mind switches back into the productive mode because you get to do it frequently. First, I doubted if I could commit but then when I did it really made a difference. The whole programme made me eager, flipped the switch. Even completing the programme itself was a great achievement. It opened a mindset that was a bit dormant. You feel more empowered because now you have some real progress, you are empowered by information and education and you are putting it in practice.

My target market is professionals who don’t have time to prepare good, healthy food. I also cater events and parties. 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. I want Nana Nokki to become a household name.

Follow @nananokki on Instagram

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This summer, why not follow in Chineze’s footsteps and join UP Collective?



Chineze's alumni story

alumni, story, entrepreneur

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