The Star of this month is Abdoulie Sanneh, also known as Justice. He is from a village called Busura in The Gambia. During his teenage years, he stayed in the barracks in Fajara. He started working in the tourism industry. Now 10 years later, he is the owner of Justice bar and restaurant at Kololi Duplex strip.
What drives Abdoulie? Abdoulie shares with you as Star of the month his vision, experiences and future plans for The Gambia.
During my teenage years, I lived with my brother in the Barracks of Fajara. My brother is a soldier. Obviously, everybody thought I would become a soldier, just like my brother. I observed the life of a soldier while living there. I already really knew myself by then. I always want things to be straight; I do not compromise. This does not fit with the culture of the army. I knew I couldn't be a soldier. Luckily, another industry came on my path.
My journey in the tourism industry started 10 years ago as a waiter. From the day I started in hospitality, I really enjoy what I am doing. The lifestyle of the tourism industry is far different from living between the soldiers in the barracks. I really started from scratch. Luckily, I had many role models during the last ten years. A lot of co-workers always complained about the strict managers. I do believe that these strict managers really helped me to become who I am today. I worked my way up from waiter and bartender to senior bartender, and now I run my own restaurant.
In the tourist industry, a repeated question is: ‘Do you want to go to Europe?’ Since I started working in the tourism industry, I have dreamed of my own business in my own country. I will always choose to invest in a business in my own country over going to Europe. Because I believe that it is better to work hard and maybe sometimes suffer in my own country than in another country. In my country, I know the rules, I know where to go and have my family close. People who believed in what I am capable. Because of them, I am standing here today in my own restaurant. Yes, it is a really hard time right now. Business isn't good right now, but the start is there!
Everywhere I have worked over the last years, they had different working systems. Of course, I learned from all the places I have worked. I really took a bit from all and made it into my own. I want to be different. I want tourists but also our Gambians to enjoy my food. On the menu, there is always something to eat for everybody who enters my restaurant. But I believe in quality, not in quantity. That's why I keep my menu small. Quality is important. Food always has to taste and look the same. When people like your food, they will come back. But If the second time the food is not tasting the same, they will run away and never come back. I want them to come back every time to enjoy my food. I want my guests to feel real hospitality: nice service, tasteful food, and a relaxed atmosphere! I am trying to translate all my experience into my service. I don't want my business to only operate for one season; I really work hard every day for Justice to become a second home for all my guests!
I believe it is really important that you can do a lot of things yourself. You don't always need to hire people to do things for you. If you can do it yourself, use your own hands to do it. I did all the work in the restaurant: painting, gardening, setting up all the tables and organizing the kitchen. I am so happy that I can do a lot myself. This makes you independent and strong as a business owner in The Gambia.
A lot of businesses in The Gambia do not operate for many years. They always say it is a lack of management. I do believe it is the administration. You always need to take care of your expenses and put money aside for fixed and variable costs in the future. If you don't do that, your business will not last long. Many people take many loans to start or maintain their businesses and lifestyles. I think that is dangerous. If it is time to pay back and you have spent it on something else without proper planning. You lose your business!
I believe that the internet is a really powerful tool we could use as business owners. I get a lot of people from different parts of The Gambia telling me that they found my restaurant on the internet. I really believe that we have to put all the business in The Gambia on the internet. This will show that The Gambia is a perfect varied holiday destination.
Always listen to elderly people. They have experienced things before you. Everybody has their own dreams and goals. Just keep on pushing yourself; one day, it will be your time. But don’t close your ears and eyes; listen to people who struggled their way up before you. They already have walked the way: you still want to walk. Keep their advice and keep on working hard. I always say: ‘Where I am from is harder than where I am going to’.
In the coming years, I really want to focus on my restaurant. Many people now think that I am a rich man. Because I run a restaurant, I can say that I am not. I hope my restaurant grows into a solid business in the coming years. My biggest dream is to open a Justice hotel one day. Step by step!