SME Relies on SMI-L Services to Train Staff and Form Business Connections
Athanase K. Kintiga and his wife, Augusta Davis, started their restaurant, Eden Park Cafeteria & Catering Services (Eden Park), in 2012 in Gbarnga, Bong County. Mr. Kintiga has a background in agriculture and previously provided training in animal husbandry. Ms. Davis has extensive experience in a variety of sectors, including restaurant and business management, cooking and pastry making. Together, they use their well-rounded skill set to run their business.
After spending time consulting for NGOS and training students on agricultural processes, Mr. Kintiga decided he was more interested in the end result: food.
“I felt I could combine my knowledge on agriculture with the restaurant business and do it better,” he explains.
Nevertheless, they have faced challenges in building a consistent client base, especially as the Liberian economy continues to recover from 2014’s Ebola Virus Disease outbreak. To address these challenges and others, both before and after the crisis, Mr. Kintiga has turned to the USAID Sustainable Marketplace Initiative Liberia (SMI-L) for support.
Eden Park in Gbargna started small, catering one-time events for UN agencies, NGOs and government entities. In 2013, the business won a one-year contract with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to cater three meals a day at the MoJ’s regional hub. The contract was extended to two years, with the help of SMI-L’s training services. In addition to participating in courses like Advanced Bid Compilation, which walks suppliers through the bidding process, Mr. Kintiga always seeks advice from the SMI-L training team when submitting bid documents.
In 2014 Mr. Kintiga decided to open a second location in Monrovia. Many people who attended workshops catered by Eden Park in Gbargna were from Monrovia, so Mr. Kintiga was confident he would have a strong customer base in the capital city. Additionally, he says it is easier to win contracts with an established presence in Monrovia.
“I would like to expand the business into a hotel and to produce homemade food that can be packaged for grocery stores,” Mr. Kintiga adds regarding his reasons for bringing his business to Monrovia.
Aside from scoping out strategic restaurant locations, Mr. Kintiga has been proactive in gaining the skills necessary to advance his business and improve his ability to win contracts. He and his staff members regularly attend SMI-L training courses, including General Procurement, Buyer Specific: UNICEF and Customer Service, among others. Of customer service, Mr. Kintiga cites an oft-heard refrain in Liberia—this is an area of weakness for most businesses. Mr. Kintiga hopes that by continuing to send his employees to customer service training, his business will thrive and he will attract the repeat customers he needs to continue to expand.
Mr. Kintiga has also taken advantage of SMI-L’s Business Linkages services by attending events in Monrovia and Gbarnga. These events offer direct networking opportunities for buyers and suppliers, which often provide the foundation for relationships that lead to business partnerships.