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Inside the world of graduate akara vendor

’I’ m fulfilled with what I do’

From James Ojo, Abuja

For Shadrach Ufoma Ukrakpo, necessity is the mother of invention. After years of roaming the streets in search of a paid job and, suffering exploitation by Shylock employers, he decided to take up frying akara, a local delicacy made from beans, for residents of Kubwa, a suburb of Abuja.

The 2005 graduate of English Language from Delta State University, said that he had to look inward to find fulfilment and make ends meet as a father and husband after nine years of slavery as a teacher in a private school unable to live on the pittance that his employer dished out every month.

He said, “I decided to go into teaching in a private school after years of fruitless search for government jobs as a temporary measure; it took me time before it dawned on me that I was not doing well, that was after nine years. During this period, I was not able to pay my bills, feed my family and live happily, which was why I decided to think outside the box.

“I realised that I needed something different, at least to save my future; that was how the idea of frying akara came and I prayed over it and I can say that, since I started, there are no regrets.

“So far, so good; things have been better because our customer base continues to expand.”

According to Ukrakpo, he launched out to meet the early morning needs of the middle class rushing to their offices or shops, that is, their need for a hot pap and akara to satiate their hunger before lunch time.

Shadrach said that he knew from the beginning that the business of frying akara was a common thing in virtually every street, so, he decided to stand out in the all-comers business.

What he did was to fry akara with palm oil, in addition to the groundnut oil which was the usual thing.

“Kubwa is populated by people from all parts of Nigeria and I noticed that people from the South West, South South and some parts of the South East enjoy akara made with palm oil, and it was not common in Abuja. So, I decided to start frying with palm oil, which has made the difference for us.

“Besides, I thought of stepping up the business by making the environment neat and attractive, that was why we decided to use gas and not firewood. Also, we make it more attractive by spicing it, no one has come here that complained of dirty environment or poor quality, even though we sell above the general price,” he said.

Shadrach opined that the future of the business was bright, notwithstanding the challenges of getting raw materials and funds for expansion.

“The challenges are there, particularly the unstable cost of beans, palm oil and gas, but we are determined to take it to the next level like having something akin to Mr. Biggs.

“Now we do home service, but we want to improve on it as we have many bankers as clients, but we need money to expand,” he said.

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