The Banker turned entrepreneur who is building a thriving restaurant- This is how she is pivoting successfully in the midst of Covid-19.
Serwaa was living the dream of running her own restaurant, Chopshop at Kuku Hill in Osu. Focused on creating a lasting impression in the minds of her customers, she suddenly saw orders slow to a trickle, as business events all but shut down during the peak of the coronavirus
“Initially, it was a big shock to us—we had events being canceled and this was never anticipated,” says Serwaa. “The early season of April to May is almost as big as Christmas for us”. She tells Paakwesiasare.biz
Prior to that, Chopshop had attracted the usual early curiosity seekers but had quickly also developed both a local and foreign clientele. Management was betting on the crowd at the oxford street as well as visitors to the shopping mall. The pandemic dashed all those prospects.
Osu is central to her business as a bulk of her orders come from here but once meetings became virtual it signaled a slowdown in business activity. That put her in a similar situation to many other small businesses struggling in the pandemic but her imaginative approach to staying afloat holds inspiration for entrepreneurs in many other fields.
“We fell back on our reserves in terms of finances, shaved our cost of operations, and thanks to the government’s policy initiative we were paying less on utility, staff cost, and everything had to be reduced ”. For Serwaa, the cancellations started in mid-April. They had a couple of events booked including weddings and parties. About three weddings had to be canceled and a refund later paid to the clients.
She made the decision to close her active brick-and-mortar shop to restrict indoor dining after the government announced a restriction on movements and public gatherings. Thanks to prudent management, she was able to continue paying her skeleton staff, which had grown to 10 since the business started two years ago.
A graduate of the University of Ghana, Legon, and a postgraduate degree holder in Corporate social responsibility and Energy from Robert Gordon University, UK, Serwaa realized it was a good time to shift her focus to e-commerce and quickly focus on online service. “ Most businesses had closed and people were mostly at home,” says Serwaa. We started brainstorming ways to bring in additional cash. “We said, ‘How can we plan our way out of this?’” recalls Serwaa. The online service and delivery had proven a hit and taken a life of its own.
The 2006 Miss Malaika finalist who resigned from her banking job after five years stayed active in every business network she belonged to and focused particularly on building brand awareness on social media, soaking up information about strategies to boost her media following.“We’re all in this together,” she says. “Everyone is working hard to survive.”
Since opening her first restaurant at Osu in 2017, Chopshop has grown from strength to strength, firmly establishing itself as a local favorite on the Accra food scene. Earlier this year, Serwaa decided the time had come to expand the brand.
There was one challenge, however: They had paid for a new office space but couldn’t move in because of the COVID-restrictions. “We decided to get very brave and pulled the trigger on renting an additional workspace,” Serwaa says. She soon found a new place in Dansoman, “It was perfect for us,” Serwaa said. “We signed the lease very quickly. We accelerated everything we did.” It was secured way before the COVID period and the rent was running”. Soon after the restrictions were relaxed they occupied the new space and began advertising the new Chopshop on social media and on other platforms. “We boosted our social media presence,” says Serwaa. “She said ‘Lo and behold, for businesses that are big on social media it’s been very good. It’s very exciting.
Serwaa does not expect full financial recovery at the restaurant until the second quarter of 2021, but in the meantime, she’s staying focused on the opportunities in front of her with the recent unveiling of her new branch which adds to the Osu and East Legon branches.
“We’re seeing tremendous growth with our new branch,” says Serwaa. “We’re leaving no stone unturned .” With the new opening, she’s increased her staff size which now brings to 15 the total number of employees.“We’re more focussed on making sure food is packaged such that we give people that in-house experience” delivery is top-notch we ensure the food arrives warm, in a deliverable friendly space, we change containers for delivery so people don’t lose that in-house experience, adding wipes, giving them freebies, let’s say a bottle of water”.
On her future plans, the law degree holder from the University of London is currently working on a new product that will bring a whole new experience to her customers “We have strategized to bring a new experience to our customers like the “Jollof premix”.The the whole idea is to bring convenience to customers. So this whole COVID experience has caused us to be innovative”.
Serwaa attributes her resilience to branding where everyone gets to know about you. But her ability to create inventive revenue streams including take-outs and less expensive delivery-service helped considerably.