Why I dumped journalism for food hawking – Ugoma Johnson

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A young female journalist, Ugoma Johnson, recently elicited a lot of interest on social media when she revealed that she chose to hawk food on the streets of Lagos over her journalism career.

Ugoma, according to her Facebook profile, had worked with Lagos based Daily Independent newspaper.

She said she also worked as head of content development at an online radio station in Lagos but resigned to begin a food vending business as a result of “economic difficulty and hunger.”

The former reporter, who is apparently proud of her new career choice, said it was a “decision that I would forever be grateful to have made.”

Her former job, according to her post on her Facebook wall, “drained me mentally/physically and still left me broke all the time because the pay was barely enough to even foot my transportation bill.

“Oftentimes, I had to eat on credit at work so that hunger will not finish my life. My colleague, Omon Ebhodaghe Esezobor, was the one who always came to my rescue.”

She added: “After snapping this picture on Tuesday at my business place at Olodi Apapa, Lagos, Trinity Market to be precise, I showed it to one of my customers. He asked if I was going to post it on social media, I replied that I would post it on my Facebook story.

“Immediately I said that he was like, what? Do you want to post that? Don’t!!!!”

“I could interpret the expression on his face to mean, “This is too demeaning to post na.”

“I was like, mehn, how do you mean? Would you rather that I stand in front of somebody’s mansion or car to snap and post as mine? Chai! You see how we don’t even encourage people to be real.

“Look, for a long time, I tried to hide the fact that I hawk. Till date, a lot of people think that I still work with the online radio station where I used to work as the Head Of Content. A job that drained me mentally/physically and still left me broke all the time because the pay was barely enough to even foot my transportation bill. Often times, I had to eat on credit at work so that hunger will not finish my life. My colleague, Omon Ebhodaghe Esezobor, was the one who always came to my rescue.

“So, most people still see me as someone working with an online radio, but no, I resigned a long time ago and went back to my food business; a decision that I would forever be grateful to have made. And that is because I can now easily work around my time to focus on other important things such as my community work and self-development.

“Though hawking this food is not easy I am determined to keep at it till I’m able to get a shop/space.

“I have a lot to say about this business of mine and a lot of lessons to draw from it, but permit me not to go into details for now.

“I always tell people that I don’t view hawking as an end. Rather, I see it as a means to an end. While many call it hustle, I call it a profession; while they call it hawking, I call it running a company because that is what I see. I already have a business name and I’m working towards having it registered with CAC sef, it is that serious.

“If you are reading this and you are not proud of your work, repent today, stop hiding your means of livelihood as long as it is legitimate and it is paying your bills.

“With this hawking, I was able to sponsor myself to learn a skill (hairdressing) years ago, with this hawking I also raised fund to publish my first book, #Schooling_Me, and with the proceeds from this hawking, I also started my community work.

How about the fact that my siblings and I have not gone begging despite the fact that we became orphaned early in life, all because this food business sustained us.

Most of the things you see me do in my community, such as organising events for teenagers, helping them out financially in my own little ways, or giving out sanitary pads to teenagers in my community, all come from proceeds from this food hawking business.

And yes, just so you know, I resigned from my job, hawked the streets of Lagos so I can raise fund to organise my very first big event.

“I am sharing this to let you know that you don’t have to wear suits and ties to live a purposeful and meaningful life.

“Am I asking you to become a hawker like me? Hell no! All I’m saying is whatever your hands have found to do, do it well. Be proud of your hustle. Be real. For now, this is what my hand has found to do and I will keep doing it with pride and dignity.

“In all, follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and know what He would have you do with your life per time. When I resigned from my work, a lot of people raised their eyebrow, it was like, are you sure this girl is not stupid like this? In fact, a friend of mine said to me, how can you be teaching teenagers in your community to leave hawking and do something more meaningful with their lives, yet you are a hawker yourself?

That almost discouraged me, but I said to myself, I can also let these teenagers know that one can hawk his way to the top simply by channelling the proceeds from the hawking into developing themselves and having a plan for their lives. Na hawk I hawk abeg, I no kee person.

“Many times, I have tried to run away from this business, I only saw it as something that I run to whenever I need cash for any project and once I’m done with the project, I would bid it farewell again, but so many things keep drawing me back to it.

Whenever I go broke and begin to pray to God to help me, all I keep hearing is, ‘I have given you a gold but you despise it because it doesn’t look flashy, go back to that gold mine and dig.’

My intuition kept pointing me back to this business until I went back to it and today, I have peace. Yes, I am at peace doing the ‘difficult/demeaning’ thing, as a lot of people see it.

And I will keep at it pending when I’m able to rent a shop/space or when I’m led to dive into something else. Today, I have learnt to treat it as a business.

“It is foolishness to pretend to be who you are not, why come to social media to pose as a manager in an oil company like Shell when you are selling groundnut oil on top of Carter bridge?

Don’t you know that you can be so real that you will even be able to package and position your groundnut oil business to look like an oil company as well?

If you become that groundnut oil seller who leaves her/his customers satisfied and asking for more, to the point that people line up to buy from you, will you die?

“Ask my customers, some of them are on my list here. Even though I hawk my food, but if I package my food, but all the ‘appearances’ (designing) and serve you, you will think that the food was delivered from one of the biggest restaurants on the Island. No jokes. Does it mean my cooking always turns out right or I don’t make mistakes?

No, but my customers have known me for excellence that whenever they find a loophole, they can easily make up excuses for me.

“This post is already longer than I want it. I will share more stories in the nearest future. The challenges, insults, and all the ups and downs that I encountered at the early stage.

Especially all the slaps that I used to receive and how people used to humiliate me until I learnt how to carry myself with pride that I can now command respect even while hawking my food. In fact, some of my customers call me professional (learned) hawker.

“For now, I encourage you to always be proud of your work. Na work you work, you no kill person. I pray God will prosper all the legitimate hustlers out there.”

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