Working Lives: The Bank Supervisor Who Resigned to Open a Beer Parlour
“I was staying at Bariga. Commuting to Agbara every day was very stressful. It was also expensive. I had to resign because I was tired of the job. I had to think of what to do. Opening a bar seemed the best option out of the businesses my wife and I considered. We started 8 years ago.”
What is your name?
My name is James Obiosa.
Where are you from?
I am from Ndokwa East Local Government Area of Delta state. I have been married to my beautiful wife for the past eight years and our marriage is blessed with three children, two boys, and a girl. My wife is from Akwa Ibom state. We met at a church programme after which we exchanged contacts and we started communicating. I later realized that she was based in Delta State. After a few months of dating and getting to know each other, we finally got married. My wife used to work in a microfinance bank in Asaba in Delta State.
Tell us about your education.
I attended Owessei Government Primary School, then I proceeded to Asagba Mixed Secondary School, Asaba, Delta State. After finishing secondary school, I gained admission to study Business Administration at Delta State University-Abraka.
When did you come to Lagos?
After my NYSC in Abuja I got a job at a new generation bank as a marketer. We were given a target to bring in new clients, but in the end, I couldn’t meet up with the target that was given to me, so in the end, I lost my job with the bank. I came back to Asaba. Instead of staying idle, I started a business center. After a while, I got a job in Agbara along Badagry. This was with another bank.
So, I left the business center for my younger ones in the village and moved to Lagos with my wife in 2008 to resume at the bank as a supervisor. But I had to leave the job due to distance. I was staying at Bariga. Commuting to Agbara every day was very stressful. It was also expensive. I had to resign because I was tired of the job. I had to think of what to do. Opening a bar seemed the best option out of the businesses my wife and I considered. We started 8 years ago.
Where do you live and how much is your rent?
I live at Oyekunle Street, in Bariga in Lagos, and I am paying N250,000 per annum for a room and parlour self-contained apartment. I have been staying in this compound since I relocated to Lagos.
How did you start this business?
I started this business eight years ago after I quit my job with my little savings and with the little financial assistance rendered to me by friends and family members. Later I sold my business center in Asaba to a family member for a little amount. The was enough money to start up my beer parlour business.
How much do you pay for rent?
I pay N120,000:00 per annum yearly and it has just been increased to N150,000:00 per annum. It has not been easy because I have not been making sales like before. Businesses are just picking up after the Covid-19 lock in but landlords will not want to understand that. Rising inflation in the country is also affecting our business.
People are not drinking, they prefer doing something else with their money. They see drinking as a waste of time and money. Sometimes if our old customers pass by and we greet them and ask why we have not seen them in the bar, the answer you get is “kosi owo” meaning “no money”. We can’t force them because we all know and see what is happening in the country.
Inflation is killing our businesses. We sell a bottle for N400 and it is not our fault. We buy between N300 and N350. The profit is not much, but man must survive. The Government should assist the masses. We have business ideas we only need help and support from the government. The government should give grants to people with business ideas and not just fold their hands as businesses collapse.
How much capital did you start with?
Thank God for friends and family who assisted me financially when I told them about my ordeal and plans to venture into something else. I also sold my cyber café to raise capital. This enabled me to rent a shop and buy two deep freezers. I spent N120,000 on drinks.
I later started selling assorted meat to boost my sales. At the beginning, the business went well but recently sales have been on the downside because things are more expensive and people are still earning the same money. But we thank God, we are still pushing as usual.
Who are your customers?
My customers are neighbours who live around my shop, and those who work around here who come in after closing. They come here to relax and chill out with friends. We also have a few policemen who come here to buy drinks. Drivers and some of the area boys patronize us too.
These people are the major customers we have but we welcome anybody who chose to come to spend time with us in our bar. We treat everybody nicely, no matter the amount you are spending. All our customers are precious to us.
When do you have the most customers – weekdays or weekends?
Weekdays are the best-selling days because of the workers who work Mondays to Fridays. Though we still make sales on weekends but not as much as on weekdays. We only rely on neighbours and passersby during weekends.
What’s the most popular brand of beer everyone buys?
Trophy Lager is the most popular brand. You see their posters in every bar. I can’t speak for others but Trophy has the highest sales in my shop.
How many crates do you sell daily or weekly?
On days when demand is high, we sell as many as 7 to 8 crates. Only about 5 crates when demand is low.
Do you have any sort of affiliation with any of the companies selling beers?
No, I don’t since I don’t buy directly from the company.
How much do you make in sales daily?
As I said earlier, it depends. It is not every time we experience large turnouts. If plenty of people do not come to drink we make money from other things like sachet drinks e.g. Chelsea and Seaman sachet gin, and also people buy our pepper meat.
If we calculate everything thing together, we make between N8000 to N10000 in a day and a week N50,000. But this is not the profit because we will still need to deduct some expenses, like the aboki fetching water for us and the cost of bikes (Napep) bringing drinks for us. Sometimes our turnover is more than N50,000 in a week.
How much profit do you make on each bottle?
I buy a bottle of Trophy for N250 and sell for N300 which means I gain N50 on a bottle. At times I sell a bottle for the N350, so my profit on each bottle is between N50 to N100. All other brands are sold for N250 from the wholesalers, except brands like Heinekens and Guiness Stout which are more expensive.
How many hours do you work in a day?
We are open from 9 am to 11 pm. There are times I stay longer than that depending on the number of customers we have for the day. And that is because there is no way I can chase customers away. I am here to make money and my sales boys and girls know that. When we do longer hours, I give them tips to encourage them because they are also humans.
Do you have a problem with drunk customers?
Yes, people do get drunk. But it is not a problem as long as they pay for their drinks and anything else they consume. Though we tell customers to slow down when we notice that they are getting high but still want to drink more. Some abuse us and ask if we are the ones paying for the drinks.
We have customers who become so drunk that they start vomiting and picking up fights. You have people who even pee on themselves. For those who live around here, we call their friends or family to take them home. Those who come from far away end up sleeping in the bar or on the road. They are sober enough to go home when they wake up.
Apart from beer, do you sell other things?
Yes, I sell soft drinks like Malt, Fanta, and Coke. I also sell fish, goat meat pepper soup, and fried beef and fish, etc.
Do you have to register with a union to open or operate a bar?
No, I didn’t register and there is no sort of union in this line of business. All I did was just to gather money, rent a shop, furnish it, and look for capital to start the business. Though I have some friends who were already into the bar business who gave me ideas on how to run the business. I still discuss business problems with them. We share ideas but it is not a union.
So, if I wanted to start the trade today, what do I have to do?
The only thing you need to start this business is capital, rent a place and you are good to go.
How much longer do you see yourself in the business?
Like I said earlier, I have been in this business for 8 years now and I must say that I don’t regret my decision of going into this line of business. I don’t see myself stopping anytime now or in the future. I want to prove to the world that one can start up a business with small capital and make it grow into millions of naira and this is what I want people to see and learn.
Tell me about your dreams or plans to venture into something else.
I am not thinking of any other business for now. I just want to focus on growing this one. The only thing I may venture into is sports. I love sports. But for now, I am enjoying running a bar.