“Lapiro Mbanga” Works Full-time, Earns Extra Money Cooking
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Denis Barika, popularly known on Facebook as Lapiro Mbanga is making a name on social media with his food delivery business. We talked about the launch-box business model in one of our posts as an easy-to-start eatery business that can be very successful in urban areas with a high white-collar job concentration.
As a follow up to the launch-box post, we had a chat with Denis Barika whose love for the kitchen made him to start a home delivery launch-box business in the United States of America. For the past months, Denis has been very popular on Facebook with his boxed Soya (roast beef) which is popular amongst Africans.
Who is Lapiro Mbanga
Denis Barika, known on social media as “Lapiro Mbanga” is from Njinibi, Momo Division of the North West Region of Cameroon. He studied in the University of Buea and left for the United States of America where he continued his studies. He holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration.
Denis Barika, aka “Lapiro Mbanga” has a full-time job, but his love for cooking pushed him to start a part-time business – supplying specially packaged food to Africans who miss food from home.
His Passion for Cooking
Asked how he came about this passion of his, Denis said, “I watched my mom cook every single day and that’s where it all started, she will make the groundnut soup and tell me to boil the Ndop rice.” People from the English-speaking part of Cameroon will understand what it means to ‘boil Ndop rice’ (sticky rice). He said it’s a gift he was born with and that his mother helped him to perfect his skills.
According to him, you can find such talent in every profession just like the guy “who can fix your radio or that girl who just braids or that guy who fixes bicycles without learning it from someone … sometimes we are just gifted with certain things.”
His talents don’t end there. Denis is also a “fruit artist”. He carves “fruits and [I] make decorative fruit tables for people’s occasions such as birthdays, baby showers, graduations…”.
He surprised me with this – “I don’t have employees. My fiancé helps me occasionally, but most of the time I am always the one in the kitchen cooking.”
Let’s Talk About the Eru, Kwacoco Bible, Soya
Lapiro Mbanga is specialized in African, especially Cameroonian dishes. “I do have some signature dishes like Kwacoco bible, Soya and Eru. They are the things I can easily ship to people in other states. I cook pretty much everything. Most of them I just supply locally like Pepper soup, Ekwang, etc.”
Passion, is one of the best ways aspiring entrepreneurs can use in getting a business idea. You can transform your passion into business. It works for most entrepreneurs. It can only be passion that will drive a full-time worker like Denis to go into such a business and succeed.
“Managing my time is not easy, that’s the hard part. I have a full-time job which means it takes away 8 hours of my day,” he said. At what time then does he prepare all the orders made? “I do my cooking on Saturday and Sunday, then ship them out on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I also do some of the cooking when I get off my full-time job since I work during the day and have all evening to cook if I feel like my weekend will be tight”.
Denis hasn’t got a special recipe for his dishes. According to him, certain traditions have to be kept. “We just cannot change them from what they should be. We cannot cook Koki beans with spices because at that point those who know what it should taste like will tell you it’s not Koki. So I try to keep and not change the recipe that’s been passed down for generations”.
According Lapiro “because you know the recipe doesn’t mean you can make it. We all know what’s in puff puff but not everyone can make puff puff and have it come out great”. Checkout Lapiro’s Kitchen for videos on how to prepare some of his dishes.
Denis has a fiancée and a little nephew, Jesse Njoh, who “cooks with me sometimes and I teach him what to use and why”. As said above, his fiancée helps him once in a while but really does not have the passion that he has. “She will cook because people need to eat, I will cook because I want to try something new or because I crave for something I haven’t had in a while and something everyone thinks it’s hard or takes too much time to prepare”.
The Name “Lapiro Mbanga”
I know this will be the question in the minds of everyone. Why Lapiro Mbanga? It was his love for the songs of late Cameroonian musician, Lapiro de Mbanga that earned him his name. “I loved Lapiro’s music because my dad used to play it all the time when I was growing up. I didn’t really care who he was, his music was what I enjoyed. His message was captivating to me”. However, Denis loves Makossa in general, especially the old school like Tchana Pierre, Ndedi Eyango, Ben Decca, Manulo, Lisa T. and so on.
Business, Customers and Legacy
Lapiro Mbanga has a a great customer base from Nigeria, Liberia, Ghana, South Africa, Sudan, Americans and most of all Cameroonians. He is planning to open a restaurant in Cameroon because many people there have been longing to get a taste of his culinary skills.
Just to make sure you understand how good an eatery business can pay, Denis said “there’s good money in the food industry. I do this part time and I still see proceeds of at least XAF2,000,000 a month”. Come to think of it, he just spends “a few days a week doing that”.
Last year, he launched a food competition that he has named after his late father, Peter Barika Memorial Food Competition. “It will be held twice a year – during Easter and Christmas” The competition is to encourage people to cook.” Participants cook, snap and sends the pictures to a jury made up of three judges. The last competition had “more than 200 pictures from people in Cameroon to choose from”. The winner had a cash price of XAF20,000. “This time it will be more than that and I am working on it right now,” he said.
To Entrepreneurs & Aspiring Entrepreneurs
“Well all I can really say is that if you are going to be an entrepreneur, the first thing is to make sure what you do is something you love. Passion and love is what will push you forward when you feel like it’s going down the drain”.
Interview: Derick Sullivan Lobga