Mrs Liamhuwan Tabitha Ornguga popularly known as Mama Tabi sells breakfast cereal also known as Ibyer in local parlance. In this interview with JOVITTA IORSHASE, the fifty three year-old mother of seven spoke on major achievements recorded with the business.
How long have you been in this business?
I started this business in 1986 by frying yam at night in front of my house. Years later, I decided to help a neighbour who had no source of livelihood to enable her cater for her family. So I introduced her to the Ibyer and native bread, Akpukpa business and we were doing it around the Police Barracks, close to Rice Mill in Wadata area of Makurdi where we sold together. We made huge profit from the business when we started. I used to sell it in the mornings and sold fried yam and beans cake at nights. I later stopped frying the yam, when I started experiencing body pains and weakness due to waking very early and going to bed very late, and then concentrated only on this one. We use to make it in basins and cook in batches then, because of the high patronage. However, years later the turn out of customers and demand became low and that was how we separated and I brought the business to my house.
What can you point out as your major achievements?
This business helped me to train our children after my husband lost his source of income. It aided part of one of my daughters’ law studies before she later got a job to sponsor herself. It also aided the feeding of the family, I bought a grinding engine and we got a plot of land at Mobile Barracks.
Do you encounter challenges in the course of this business?
The challenges are many, ranging from waste, high cost of beans, oil and other ingredients. For example, a tasty moimoi should at least contain crayfish, black pepper, fresh ginger, chilly and long pepper, onions, palm and vegetable oil, salt and seasons. All these cost so much now but I still have to maintain the standard so that I would not loose my customers. Yet there are days I experience low patronage which to an extent leads to waste.
Customers don’t come some days for various reasons; lack of money or when salaries are not paid. For some persons, the Ibyer and akpukpa serve as breakfast for families who don’t have enough money but when they have enough, they don’t come again.
It’s really difficult; many women who started with me have stopped. The profit is very little but for my Passion for the business, I just keep striving. Another challenge is preservation. Only the cereal can be preserved without electricity, but the native bread and beans cake needs to be refrigerated. I had to throw some of the akara away to my sheep to avoid total waste because there has been black out for the past two months now. I make only a reasonable quantity but still not all of it was sold, maybe due to hardship or other reasons.
I sell on credit to some customers and sometimes I take it to the market for sale when I don’t exhaust it in the morning. I also have to manage settlement of debts between my Wadata and Modern markets beans and millet suppliers. Also, some women turn to look down on my type of business, even some women who buy for their families. Some taunt me that, I have access to money but can not use it well and do not look flashing, forgetting the fact that I am constantly close to the fire and the steam. I decided to stay away from them .I wake up by 3:30 am daily to do this and its quite demanding but they do not understand that. But the joy of having people around to serve has kept me going.
Do you intend to pass the business to your children when you grow older?
No, I don’t see any of my children taking over this business from me when I become tired. They are neither interested nor willing to do it. I get assistance from them now but I see no future for it with them when I retire, though a lot of families around this Ankpa Ward and environ have benefitted immensely from this business.
What is your advice to women who only depend on their husbands?
I want to encourage women to shun jealousy and engage in useful ventures no matter how little. They should not look down on any one who is willing to earn a living with any legal business no matter how demeaning it might seem. And women should always keep God first in their homes and respect their husbands. I also hope that, some of my buoyant customers will be generous enough to assist me financially so that I can improve on the business.