Saturday, March 27, 2010

My on/off affair with a glass of wine.

New country, new start, no idea where to start from? Well, I started from the bar with a chilled glass of wine to celebrate my freedom from grey sky and freezing winter. It started innocently enough, I deserve to celebrate after all, it has been almost 20 years of dreaming to come back to Africa. I gave myself a month holiday before I had to start planning what to do with my new life. Maputo social circle is very small and it is an easy place to meet people and make new friends. I think what contribute to the easy and fun social life is just how much alcohol people consume, and without noticing it, I slipped into the habit.

I was once told by – I can’t remember who – that I had an addictive personality. Well, I am not sure how they came to that conclusion but I have to agree. It is either the gym, the bar, or something else. Gym addiction I don’t mind but I never imagined I would be addicted to alcohol. And it is puzzling how the initial excitement of new life turned to stress and anxiety about what to do next and the celebration with glass of wine into 6 glasses to escape stress. You convince yourself that you are having fun and of course when you are out the night before it all makes perfect sense just to wake up with the worst hangover and feeling lower than ever. What fun?

If I managed to free myself from oppressive cultural and religious upbringing, how much harder can it be to get rid of coloured liquid out of my life?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Saved by google translate

Starting Pronto, I knew if I had to properly think through how every bit of the operation would work, I would have doubted my ability and never started it. I worked out the general plan of the business but had to just jump in and learn the rest as I went.

I employed 2 delivery guys (thankfully, one spoke English) and 3 other staff for cooking, packaging the food, shopping, and cleaning. Since the English-speaking delivery guy was always on the road I had to find a way to communicate with the other 3 staff who spoke only Portuguese. Thank goodness for internet connection and google translate! When I needed to give instructions from cooking to hygiene rules I used google translate and got the staff to read. Then I found out the young girl I was training as a cook couldn’t read!! Hmmm…Things got a bit complicated with having to get both of them to stop what they were doing and one to read the text and explain to the other! That was hard and we were losing valuable time. So, I had to think in advance about everything I needed them to know. I wrote detailed instructions of how to make all the food, hygiene regulations, list of daily routine and tasks for each staff member. I translated them using google and posted them on the kitchen wall to minimise confusion and make sure we didn’t run around looking for translators at peak trading hours.

Before starting the business, I had these romantic and cute ideas about running my own business. I was gonna turn the small bedroom upstairs overlooking the sea into my office and calmly workout all my marketing strategies and future expansion from there while the staff I have trained worked downstairs to produce delicious meal that is well presented and packaged. It would take me about a month to train them and it will all be like a clock-work. Yeah right! There was no time for strategy or expansion planning, it was like a headless chicken daily routine of running from 7am to 6pm with no lunch breaks till 2pm. Shouting instructions and calling the delivery guy 50 times to make sure he delivered the food to clients on time and found the address.

Me, Ms no-sense-of-direction, was now in charge of training the delivery guy about Maputo delivery routes, short-cuts, rush-hour bottle-necks, etc. I would never have thought in a million years I would be a delivery-man, imagine that? I learnt when you need to figure out something, you just do. No such thing as I can’t do this or that, everything depends on you and you just have to make it happen.

Running a start-up in a sector you don’t know much beyond love for cooking, in a country where you don’t speak the language and choosing a delivery business with no sense of direction is a good place to start facing your fears.