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I trained 3 graduates through roasting yam – Jos Woman

Is roasted yam considered a profitable small-scale business? Assuming the venture is promising, is it enough to cater to the needs of a family? These…

Is roasted yam considered a profitable small-scale business? Assuming the venture is promising, is it enough to cater to the needs of a family? These are some obvious questions anyone will ask when the issue of roasting yams for a living comes up.

Well, the life of a woman in Jos, the Plateau State capital, can be an answer to those unanswered questions. The woman popularly known as Mama Joy took to the business of roasting yam for sale long ago and continued with the business till today, without changing location.

Mama Joy, a mother of nine children, now in her 70s is an epitome of hard work, commitment and doggedness.

Within a period of 30 years in the business of roasting yams by the roadside, she has used the proceeds to train her five children through primary, secondary and tertiary institutions. From the same trade, she trained two of her children at the University of Jos. Another one just finished from the Plateau State Polytechnic with HND in Accounting.

She told Daily Trust Saturday, “My husband is a vulcanizer who stays by the roadside to wait for any vehicle that needs his service. My husband’s handwork cannot fetch enough food for the family talkless of paying our children’s school fees and paying house rent. So, I thought of what to do to augment the family income. I started by selling gruel – a local beverage known in Hausa as “kunun dawa”. I used to hawk the gruel from one street to another. Hawking the drink was very stressful and with just little gain. So, I began to look for something better. A friend of mine told me to try roasting yam. I made up my mind to go into selling roasted yams. I bought the advice and began to seek consultations from those who were into roasting of yams. Some encouraged me to give it a try, while others tried to discourage me by telling me there was no gain in it. But I just needed to try anything other than hawking gruel, or staying idle. So, I eventually made up my mind to try roasting yams.”

She narrated further, “When I finally made up my mind to venture into roasting of yam, the capital to start was another obstacle. I know a woman who sell yams, so I went to her to discuss my business plans and seek her help. I needed someone who would give me the yams on credit and I will pay later. The woman connected me with a Hausa yam seller at yam market in Gangare Jos. So, the woman stood as guarantor for me and I was given the yam on credit. I was given a mound of yam tubers. A mound contains 100 tubers of yam. Each of the tubers goes for N130 (one hundred and thirty naira). So, a mound of yam at the time was about N13,000.00 (Thirteen thousand naira).

“With the yams already secured, I returned home, gathered all the required materials and set out for business. I needed a location like a business street where roasted yam was needed. I got a place at Rwang Pam Street Jos by the gate of the defunct Bank of the North. That was how I started over 30 years ago.”

She paid up the credit within the one week time agreed with the Hausa yam supplier. Having shown honesty and trust at the first instance, the yam seller found her a trustworthy business partner and so continued to give her yam on trust. “That was how I started and continued, because I noticed the business is profitable. Each time I collect the 100 tubers of yams from the Hausa man for the sum of N13,000.00, I will make the N13,000.00 from roasting 50 tubers. By the time I returned the N13,000.00 to the owner of the yam, I would still have 50 tubers left for me to roast, which will also give me another N13,000.00 by the time I finish roasting them. I never ran into a loss roasting yam. In fact, my children eat from it and I still make gain at the end of the day.”

As at 30 years ago when Mama Joy started the business of roasting yam, such venture was unknown in Jos city, so she was among the foremost roasted yam sellers in Jos. This gave her a monopoly advantage in the business and a fast turnover, which many people never envisaged.

Mama Joy, who may not have had any formal training in business, grew her trade gradually based on demands from her customers. “At a point, many of my customers were asking for porridge beans to go with the roasted yam, I responded by cooking porridge beans. My customers also ask for soft drinks like Coca-Cola and Fanta, I also started selling soft drinks. Later on, I started roasting plantain, both ripe and unripe, because my customers demanded for it. So, that was how my clientele base began to grow.”

Those who enjoy Mama Joy’s delicacy come from far and near. “People come from as far as Bukuru to buy my roasted yam. Some families bring food flask from home to collect the roasted yam and sauce for lunch at home. And all the offices and shops around here patronize my roasted yam for lunch.”

Rwang Pam Street, where Mama Joy operates from, is located in the city centre just behind Ahmadu Bello Way. The entire Rwang Pam street is a commercial area where shops are localized, especially electronics and electrical shops, and book shops. There are more than 100 shops surrounding her and most of the staff patronize her.

Mama Joy is mostly patronized because with N100, you can have a plate of roasted yam. Her service is so flexible that everyone is served according to how much you can afford. “All these sales girls and boys buy their lunch from me. Even their bosses send them to come and buy, not because it is cheap but because it is a cultural food in most Nigerian tribes.”

Mama Joy is right, there is hardly any tribe in Nigeria that does not take delight in eating roasted yam.

She said, “People who come here say they like to buy my yam because my pepper sauce is tasty; it is made up of pepper, tomato, spring onion and onion, salt and seasoning.” Mama Joy also adds fish, crayfish, cow skin and beef to her sauce, which she says gives it an irresistible taste.

In her struggles to cater for her nine children, Mama Joy does not neglect her domestic activities as a house wife. She has her routine, “I do my selling from Monday to Friday, on Saturday I face my domestic work and on Sunday, I worship my God and rest.”

On why she still continued with the business till date, Mama Joy said, “It has become part of my life, having done it for 30 years. Even my children have told me they will open a provision shop for me, but I prefer to continue roasting yams because that is the only business God gave me.”

Joy Steven, her first daughter was the first to graduate from the University of Jos with a degree in accounting. She eventually secured employment with Intercontinental bank which was bought over by Access Bank. The employment of her first daughter helped ease the burden of educating the younger children.

Mrs Steven told Daily Trust Saturday that, “I remember when my mummy started this yam roasting business, we rush to her place to help her after we close from school.

“My mummy is so passionate about her business, she is so committed to it that nothing else can take her time other than the business because the family depends on it. But today we give God the glory for giving her the strength to do it. My mum saved from the business to gather enough money to pay our school fees. My mummy fought poverty with her strength. I’m so proud of her.”

David, who graduated with HND Accounting from the Plateau State Polytechnic  said, “My mum did not have the opportunity to go to school, she swore that her children must get good education and did all she could to achieve her aim. Today, she has nothing less than three graduates.She is my role model”

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