BOLD MOVE: SIMILEOLUWA ADEBAJO QUITS HER JOB AS A FINANCIAL ANALYST TO OPEN THE FIRST NIGERIAN RESTAURANT IN SAN FRANSISCO
On April 5, 2019, Simileoluwa Adebajo took to Twitter to announce her decision to leave her Silicon Valley job to start her dine-in restaurant, Eko Kitchen, next month.
“So I’ve quit my job as a Financial Analyst to open the first #Nigerian restaurant in the city of San Francisco. Tbh I’m not sure of exactly what I’m doing but I’ll do my best with what I have. Wish me luck, guys,” the post read.
She immediately became a viral sensation as her post got over 15,000 retweets and about 60,000 likes. Her follower count went from 400 to 2,813, as of today, April 10, 2019.
Adebajo got hailed for being brave and doing something most people would never dare do – quit a well-paying day job to pursue their passion.
Reacting to the response to her viral tweet, she told the San Francisco Chronicle, “It was absolutely crazy. I didn’t think the reaction would be like that. I’m still trying to process everything.”
Transiting from finance to cooking
Adebajo started thinking about opening her restaurant sometime in 2018. She decided to play it safe by having cooking as her side hustle while working at her day job-being a financial analyst for the video platform, Twitch.
She started juggling the two when she officially launched Eko Kitchen last July. She started by operating out of a commissary kitchen in the Mission, a neighbourhood in San Francisco, California. She also sold her food through delivery services like Uber Eats and Postmates.
She shared her inspiration in an earlier post in February 2019. It read, “Been thinking a lot about why I started Eko Kitchen in San Francisco and the truth is that all I wanted to do with this concept was to share Nigerian food, music and culture with this city…”
Continuing the thread, she added, “I am not the best chef in the world but I strategically positioned myself as the first and only Nigerian food in the city of San Francisco and I’ll always be proud of that achievement. As I work to restructure Eko Kitchen around small event catering, intimate gatherings and pop up events, I hope that I never lose sight of my initial goal.”
Adebayo eventually moved to Joint Venture Kitchen, a collaborative restaurant pop-up space for San Francisco cooks, where she had several sold-out pop-up events which often featured her jollof spaghetti, fried mackerel in tomato sauce, and Nigerian honey beans served with crayfish.
After months of sold-out events, she got an offer from the owners to become a permanent resident at the building. Faced with the opportunity of owning her very own restaurant, she quit her job at Twitch and decided to fully commit to her passion project.
She discusses her leap of faith in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle saying, “It wasn’t that popular if I’m being honest. Not in the beginning. And it was expensive to run. There were times where I felt really discouraged.”
“The truth is, I’m a good financial analyst. I can do a three-year projection for you right now and draw up charts and graphs and strategic recommendations, but I haven’t been happy. I was spending eight hours a day staring at a spreadsheet. I realized placing just one plate of food gave me more satisfaction than eight hours of being a financial analyst could ever give me.”
“I would rather not be the person who is half-assing through life. I was giving 40 percent of myself to my job and 60 percent of myself the restaurant, which I was only doing on the weekend at the time. I decided I’d rather be the person who was really good at this one thing in particular than just average at a few menial things.”
Adebayo hopes to own a prominent space for Nigerian food and culture in the Bay Area.
PHOTO CREDIT: Pulse.ng