The Tracy Tasties Story.
The year started with some good news for Tracy Wahito, but just three months into 2020, things took an abrupt turn that threatened to get her life off the rails for the second time in just five months. Forcing her to start building her life again. One block at a time.
On April 6th 2020, Kenya’s Head of State Uhuru Kenyatta, in a nationwide address, imposed a three week ban on movement in and out of what was then the four main coronavirus infected areas. Among the regions affected was the nation’s capital Nairobi.
The announcement, which caught many Kenyans unaware, was made just before the long Easter weekend.
“I was three months into a new job,” Tracy says. “And I had taken some days off to visit my parents.”
Tracy’s parents live in Nyeri Town, some 150 kilometres north of Nairobi. When the cessation of movement order was made Tracy couldn’t get back to the city, but in the coming days, this inability to travel back to Nairobi became the least of her worries.
Although the lock-down was meant to curb the spread of the highly contagious virus, the consequences of this, particularly for small businesses proved devastating in the long run. The hospitality industry within which Tracy worked was among the hardest hit. Restaurants, hotels, bars, were shutting down and laying off staff in thousands.
“I got an email from my employer announcing that my services were no longer needed,” Tracy says.
“I found myself without a job to go back to.”
Just like that, a short career at a restaurant located in the city’s The Waterfront Mall in the upmarket Karen neighbourhood came to an end.
The University of Nairobi estimates that the hospitality industry will shrink by between 58-78 per cent this year, the net effect of this is massive job losses.
At 27 years, Tracy has a certain bubbliness to her. A conversation with her reveals a certain near manic optimism.
“I haven’t always been like this,” she says. “I was timid and a bit reserved but my interactions with different people over the years have molded me into what I have now become.”
Since childhood, Tracy has always wanted to work in the hospitality industry. After high school she went to university to study Hospitality Management, a natural fit for an individual who delighted in not only being of service to people but was thrilled by the possibilities that existed in the culinary world too.
From then on, her life followed a familiar but linear path. College. Employment. Climbing the corporate ladder. Next job group. Repeat. But somehow, this was not enough.
“Within a year and a half I had moved from being a waiter at the Villa Rossa Kempinski to being a Head Butler at the Sarova Stanley,” she told Distory in an interview.
Now, being a Head Butler is a big deal. But being the Head Butler to a newly launched Executive Wing that handled only VIPs and VVIPs was an even bigger deal. However, transitioning from this role to becoming the Personal Assistant to the hotel chain’s General Manager was the biggest deal of them all.
Part of Tracy’s work as the Head Butler of The Sarova Stanley’s Executive Wing was to make sure the VIPs and VVIPs were at ease. Among her famous guests was celebrated news anchor Richard Quest.
Yet, these achievements were not enough.
“I was grateful for the opportunities that the Sarova Stanley gave me. But at some point I realised that the company’s goals and my goals were not aligned,” she says.
So she quit.
She left the relative peace and stability of employment and jumped right into the deep, dark, rough and tumble waters of entrepreneurship.
“After all,” she perhaps thought, “I have enough passion to launch the spaceship that will jettison my business into the next level, right?”
Business, it turned out, needs much more than passion to succeed.
Tracy Tasties, the catering business she set up after leaving her job was founded on 90 per cent passion and, well, 10 per cent everything else.
“The business was meant to offer healthy, affordable meals to customers,” she says. “Our unique selling point was that we also offered diet plans for individuals with chronic illnesses at a fee as well.”
For some few brief months the business grew. Partnerships with related service providers boomed. But only fleetingly. It took losing one key client to bring her empire tumbling down. Soon, she had to close its doors.
Six months after quitting, she found herself sending out job applications again. She had learnt her lessons and opted to walk away before all her fingers got burnt.
This is how she found herself at The Waterfront, starting her employment journey for the second time before the pandemic struck and she received that heart-breaking email announcing her dismissal.
At that point, it would have been easier for Tracy to give up, curse at life for dealing her a losing hand. But she chose the harder option.
In June this year she returned to business. This time with one major change. She had learnt that although passion was important, it wasn’t the only thing that her business required.
“I have learnt the importance of getting my finances in order as well as the importance of systems and a good location,” she says.
When the hard times brought about by reduced spending as a result of the pandemic forced a business at a prime location in Nyeri town to close, she saw a chance to resuscitate Tracy Tasties.
“I have learnt enough lessons to make it work,” she says.
If you call Tracy on a random weekday between 11AM and 3PM, there is a chance that her phone will go unanswered. Between these hours she would be shuffling around making sure the patrons at her hotel get served or busy confirming deliveries for the next day.
The risk she took in setting up a business in the middle of a pandemic is slowly paying off. She says that the first month of business was hard. People didn’t want to eat outside their homes. But now things are starting to pick up.
The World Bank estimates that Kenya’s economy will slow down substantially in 2020 due to the effects of the virus and that if the pandemic persists, the country might get into negative growth.
However, around these dark clouds are the stories of individuals like Tracy who, in the middle of doom and gloom, keep their dreams alive and never stop chasing the shadows that they believe will form the reality of their lives. And it is this select group of individuals who will pull the country through. Haul us, collectively, into better days.
“Now that I think about it, it seems like a crazy thing to do,” she says looking back at her journey over the past few months.
But normal has never really built empires. Normal has rarely made dreams come true.
“That’s why I dream of having a Tracy Tasties in every major capital in the region,” Tracy says.
Sounds crazy, right?
“I will work as hard as possible to make this true,” she says. “I am on the right path.”
Tracy Tasties seeks to make the lives of its clients whole.
You can walk into the restaurant and can get a neck massage as a starter if you are feeling bogged down by the weight of the world. Then order a healthy meal from a wide selection as the main course. This can come with a side of a customized meal plan. For dessert, nothing tastes better than dietary advice.