She is a jack of all trades and master of all. Her knowledge of skills knows no bound.
From a very early age in life, she developed an interest in entrepreneurship, acquired all acquirable skills, and today, she is not only a blessing to herself and her family but to her immediate community, Lagos State and the country at large.
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Eighteen-year-old Halima Umar Atana is a chef and runs a restaurant at the popular Oniwaya junction, Capitol Road, Agege in Lagos State. Though an indigene of Kano State, she was born and bred in Lagos.
She is the managing director/chief executive officer of Atanas Meal, where local and continental dishes, snacks, mock tails and drinks are prepared and sold. Apart from the Lagos restaurant, she also operates a mini-branch in Kano State, where she hails from.
Atana is obviously a lover of skills. She produces tea bags and spices, such as ginger, turmeric, garlic, yellow pepper and yaji, among others.
Her philosophy about life is that every girl-child and woman should be skilful so that she can be helpful, not only to herself but to her children, family and the society.
She is also the chief executive officer of Modern Walk by Atana, a company that renders tailoring services, ready to wear, sells exotic fabrics and deals in all kinds of fashion accessories. She selects clothes for brides, sketches their dresses and transfers the sketch to her tailor to sew. Atana also gets make-up artists for brides.
Despite doing all these, she is studying Dentistry at the Emirate College of Health, Science and Technology in Kano State. Dentistry is a branch of medicine that deals with treatment of diseases and other conditions that affect the teeth and gums, especially the repair and extraction of teeth and the insertion of artificial ones. Atana is presently in her 300-level.
How Atana became a chef
Like many other businesses, Atana started small with making of small chops when she was in JSS 3 at age 13. As days went on, she learnt more skills on YouTube, which she added to her menu after two years.
She said, “I kept on doing my work diligently, and one day, my dad called me to commend what I was doing and indicated interest to help me. He asked if I would be able to manage a restaurant if he opened one for me. I jumped at the offer and assured him that I could successfully run it. That was how he opened the restaurant for me; and I have been operating it for the past three years.
“When I started my small chops business in JSS 3, I sold at a very low price of N300 for a pack that contains two samosas, two spring rolls, puff-puff and meat sauce. I also sold the un-fried dough, which is refrigerated for customers who want to fry by themselves. My customers then were mostly friends and neighbours, but now, all tribes, including the rich and the poor patronise us. We also render doorstep delivery to our customers while there is a special order, which is mostly done for the affluent based on request,” she said.
What started small five years ago has today metamorphosed into a big venture and has even birthed many other businesses. On how she was able to acquire so many skills within the period she started the business, she said, “I am a self-taught chef. I used my phone in learning varieties of things that will help me in my business and studies.
Atana has patterned her life after two successful young women. Her role models are Jidda Endabo, the brand owner of Cakes & Co and Chef Halima Zawiya, the owner of Noodlebar. However, of all her business lines, the food vending business is of top priority.
Job creation and training
Presently, Atana has seven workers at the Lagos restaurant while she has three at the Kano branch.
Over 40 people have benefitted from her physical training while over 100 have participated online. She also volunteers to train students in schools for free, and over 70 have benefitted.
The major challenge Atana’s food vending business is faced with at the moment is occasional delay in delivery to customers who place orders, due to traffic. This, she said, makes the food get cold before it gets to the buyer. She, however, said she was working on getting a better way to package the food to prevent it from getting cold on time.
Another challenge is the price of food items in the market, which she said was affecting her business as she must keep the price affordable for her customers.
She further noted that inadequate working capital is one of the major challenges facing small businesses in the country, as well as stiff competition from larger companies, which makes it very difficult for the smaller ones to be noticed.
“For people to notice a small business, the operator must work very hard. Thank God for the social media, which is a very good platform to showcase businesses,” she said.
Advise to youths/government
Atana advised youths never to despise the days of little beginning, saying being rich is a choice, quoting that ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with a step.
“You have to start small, then grow gradually to the top. Unfortunately, most youths are not ready to start from the beginning as they look down on small businesses, not knowing that the small profit they make at the initial stage could turn big, with hard work and commitment.
For the unemployed youth, she urged them to acquire skills and become self-reliant, as well as employers of labour.
She further urged the government at all levels to, as a matter of urgency, put in place policies that would pull down the prices of goods and services for small and medium enterprises.
She also stressed the need for government to provide capital for operators of small businesses to aid their expansion.
To encourage young people to become entrepreneurs, Atana suggested that vocational training be adopted as a subject in secondary schools so that right from school students can acquire skills such as catering craft, make-up, tie and dye, tailoring, shoemaking, among others. This, she also said, would make a lot of young people become self-reliant even while they further their education.
On what she intends to do with the knowledge of dentistry she is acquiring, she said, “My dream is to have my own clinic, but before then, after graduating, I plan to work in a clinic so as to gather experiences that would be useful by the time I open mine.”
Commenting on how she copes with her several lines of business and her academic pursuit, she explained that the Lagos restaurant is already well established, such that even when she is not around, her staff attend to the needs of customers satisfactorily. For the Kano restaurant she opens only three days in a week, including Friday, Saturday and Sunday when she is not in school. She further noted that she produced her spices and tea in bulk and display for sale in the restaurants, adding that they are also readily available each time customers request for them.
Atana is indeed an industrious teenager that other girls and youths in the society should emulate. Rather than engage in all manner of atrocities, she channelled her energy into productive activities.