Former banker explains why he quit his job to bring Naked Pizza to Africa

Is this a challenging business to run?

Our biggest challenge is the bureaucracy. I have done business in umpteen countries and the bureaucracy is unlike anything I have ever seen. I think businesses in Kenya have still done well in spite of this, which says something about the opportunities here. Operationally, delivering is a challenge because many roads are not named and buildings not numbered. We spent three months before we opened mapping out our delivery area. Food costs here is also very high, with some locally sourced inputs being almost two times what we would pay in other parts of the world.

I am curious. What kind of manager are you?

I am very hands-on. When things get busy you will find me at the back making pizza, out front taking customer orders, and even sometimes going out on deliveries. I live and breathe the brand. I usually open the store at 10am in the morning and close it at midnight every day. One thing that I will probably never outsource is how we handle our social media accounts. I do that myself because it is such an integral part of our DNA, and very important to have that direct connection with customers. My attention to detail is very high, perhaps even to a fault.

You know you could be a senior manager at a large corporation somewhere instead of selling pizza?

I did that on and off for ten years, but I’ve never had more fun than I have had in the last year. This is much more fun – I am doing something I am passionate about, work with great people, and to boot, I can wear jeans, a t-shirt and sandals to work! I haven’t worn a suit in a year and I love it.

Should we expect to see more foreign food brands coming to Kenya?

Yes. For many years a lot of people were focused on Asia but now they are looking at Africa. I know Subway (a US franchise) is coming to Kenya. There are a number of other brands sniffing around as well, which means that they have also seen the opportunity that Kenya has to offer. I mean, look at the Java coffee house, a homegrown success. The challenge that you face in a country like Kenya is the scalability of a business. We could do four to five stores in Nairobi whereas in a small German city we could build 15 to 20 stores because of the demographics and spending power.

What’s next on the horizon for Naked Pizza?

We have already operationally broken even and will shortly start generating profit. Any business that I start I like to operationally break even in 100 days. We will be opening two Naked Pizza stores in Nairobi this year, and potentially two more next year. We are looking to begin regional expansion at the end of next year. In the long-term my goal is to introduce other hospitality brands into the market and I strongly believe there are opportunities across the retail sector.