Tokunbo means ‘From Across The Sea’ in Yoruba, a language and tribe from the West African nation of Nigeria.
I was born in Camden, London, to Nigerian parents. My experience of living in the vibrant city of Lagos for the first nine years of my life really helped to shape my taste buds and love of Nigeria cuisine. After obtaining my first degree in Psychology, I worked in education for five years. I then pivoted to social work, which had been a childhood goal of mine.
In 2012 I was selected to be part of the prestigious Atlas Service Corps – a year-long leadership development fellowship program in the United States. This involved living and working in Washington DC and supporting vulnerable and homeless adults through the provision of daily meals, case management and advocacy work. I noticed that despite the dozens of food trucks parked around the city business districts (serving breakfast and then lunch) none were from Africa. I noticed a gap in the market.
I then had similar experiences whilst attending festivals and food markets across London in 2013. I had become disillusioned with social work and I finally made the decision to leave my job in August 2014 and took some time to consider what self employment options I wanted to pursue.
Tokunbo's Kitchen is a pop-up service that offers people from diverse cultural backgrounds a chance to experience delicious and nutritious home-cooked Nigerian food.
I was taught to cook by my mum at a young age and was encouraged to cook for family and friends quite regularly. As a result I have always especially enjoyed cooking for others. Consequently, it felt like a natural thing when I started Tokunbo’s Kitchen back in September 2015, after noticing a gap in the street food market for a service that specialised in Nigerian cuisine. Tokunbo's Kitchen is a pop-up service that offers people from diverse cultural backgrounds a chance to experience delicious and nutritious home-cooked Nigerian food. Since the launch of the business, we have fed over 10,000 people, have successfully operated several major street food festivals, hosted dozens of pop-ups and supper clubs events, and completed four in-house chef residencies.
Over the summer, I won the ‘Yum in my Tum’ at the inaugural PRECIOUS Lifestyle Awards. This was truly a great moment for me especially as it had been a public vote. I was then invited to host the “First Nigerian Cooking Class” at Google’s London HQ as part of their Black History Month series of events. This was a dream that I hadn’t even envisioned coming true – sharing my passion for the great culinary delight that is Nigerian cuisine.
My entrepreneurship journey has been a rollercoaster and I have lost friendships along the way. There have been many times when the loneliness of not having daily work interactions was overwhelming, but I try to buffer that by building a tribe of other like-minded entrepreneurs at different stages of their own businesses, both online and offline.
Attending events like the PRECIOUS and Black British Business awards are a great opportunity not only to celebrate black excellence, but also to be inspired by what others are achieving and building in their respective fields.
As a young black African teenager growing up in the streets of Tottenham, the odds were stacked against me. The role model provided by my single mother and my love of reading and seeking knowledge gave me a way out. Running a business as a solo founder and a single mother can be extremely challenging, but I stay motivated knowing I am creating a legacy for my daughter and my community. My ultimate goal is to feed the likes of John Boyega and Anthony Joshua, proud British-Nigerians who are making waves internationally but for now I am happy to feed the world!
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