This week we will be speaking with Martial Nvouka, the self-taught chef who serves you fresh fruit juices, coffee, tea and pancakes every Saturday at the Ndara boutique.
Martial's full menu is available here and if you live in Bangui you can join Martial's WhatsApp (000236 72 78 74 07) group to find out what's on the menu this week. Martial and the Ndara boutique can be found at Avenue de la Victoire, Bangui, Central African Republic.
Together we support each other: Martial uses our well equipped, reliable kitchen to grow his business and in turn provides Ndara with a snack service for its boutique and events.
We brought our ndara (skills in Sango) together to build resilience and strength in the Central African Republic - telling #anotherstory along the way.
1. What is your mission, your raison d'être?
My mission is to identify the problems of my clients and offer a solution to help them. I want to make life easier and more joyful for everyone.
2. How and why did you start your business?
It's actually a funny story! Back in 2017, I had moved to the capital Bangui from the Eastern parts of the Central African Republic to try to find work. I had been employed as a cleaner at the UN peacekeeping mission in Bangui (MINUSCA). While cleaning there a UN staff member asked me where she could find fresh fruit and I offered to buy, clean, cut and deliver fruit for her as extra work. Her colleagues saw this and soon started asking me for fruit deliveries too. Eventually, I started making fresh fruit juices as well as salads.
But it was hard; Central African culture is not to eat salads as a meal, like you do in the western world, so I knew nothing about making salads. My clients knew this while they also saw the potential in me to learn, so they taught me how to make salads. They taught me to grill eggplant, cook quinoa (foods I had never heard of!), make different dressings and which veggies to combine together.
Soon, I was preparing enough salads and fruits to make it food service a full time job. The UN staff member who originally asked me for the fruit offered me use of her kitchen, so I resigned from my cleaning job and set up the company from her kitchen. For some of you this might not make sense, but you have to understand that I live in a neighborhood in Bangui where we have no running water, electricity or western living conditions, and the commute into the city center is far. So when I was offered to use a kitchen with running water, electricity, fridge, and all the utensils needed located in the city center, this changed everything!
Today, 5 years later, I have grown my business enough to be able to rent my own kitchen from Ndara and run my business out of it (link to Ndara ti Martial page).
3. What is your biggest obstacle right now?
I deliver all my orders, but I don’t have a space where clients can come sit down and eat. This would be the next thing I need to grow my business.
4. What is your biggest success?
My company is the reason that I can support my family and community, so I am very proud of it. But, I also managed to raise the funds to drill a well in my neighborhood that now supplies drinking water to over 1200 homes through a community participation scheme. This is a real pride for me! Drinking water should be a human right, but in the Central African Republic it is not. Most people have to stand in line for hours and hours to buy 20 liters of water. And those 20 liters need to be enough for cooking, drinking, cleaning, and washing for the whole family.
5. If there were two things someone should know before starting a business, what would they be?
You have to be a leader, and to me that means that you have to be willing and able to take care of others. But the most important thing is that you need to identify the needs of your clients. You need to fill a need.
6. What and who do you celebrate?
The UN staff member who first asked me for fruit and made all this possible: Anna Osborne. She always told me: You can do it, I believe in you! I ended up believing and having confidence in myself. All that I have done with this company, and the community water well, is because she believed in me first. Anna, if you are reading this - you brightened my life!
7. What/who inspires you to grow and improve?
Cristiano Ronaldo: the Portuguese international footballer. It might seem odd but at the age of 37 he is still at the top. That does not come for free - that takes hard work and a desire to win, to be the best in his field. I keep coming back to him as an example, age is not a limit - you only need to put in the hard work and know what you want.
8. If you could send one message to the world, what would it be?
I think that the world today needs more security, people are afraid which slows down development in so many regions of the world. It seems the way the world is organized with international organizations is not working for the 21st century. There is too much conflict, too much war, too much insecurity. We cannot develop and grow like this. Maybe we need to think outside the box and come up with a world system that is adapted to the 21st century?
Thank you Martial! We appreciate all that you do for the Bangui Boutique, for the Central African Republic and most importantly for your family. If you want to get your hands on Martial’s full menu you can do that here and if you want to visit the Bangui Boutique and have a fresh juice you can find the address here.