IT is a local norm that the role of women and girls is limited to the kitchen in our male dominated society.
Picture a rare sight: a man in a kitchen, sweat perspiring from his forehead as he learns over a boiling soup, the aroma of onion and garlic seeping through his clothes and the air as he pinches off cabbage leaves from its stalk.
A practically extinct sight would be if that man is a youth who has lots of energy to do fun stuff with friends instead.
Seeing this is as an opportunity to start his business, Max Webo – a young man from Malaita has decided to take up catering.
His business, Hoodlum Catering, provides food on training sites and in offices for certain events.
Apart from spending time in the kitchen, Max, like many other young people his age, enjoys playing soccer and listening to music.
Max grew up in a family of six boys where his interest for cooking was bred, no doubt, in his mother’s kitchen.
From here, he fully embraced the skills learnt, inspiring him to become one of the best cooks in town.
When asked what is unique about his catering, the 20-year-old replied, “I am very reliable and always on time. Most of my dishes consist of local food which are sold at an affordable price.”
Speaking to one of his customers, Desmond Mane, who currently attends trainings under the Y@W programme, he said “I really like the food. Max’s catering team usually come and delivers every time at our training venue.”
He went on to say, “I do not have any preference on the dishes he delivers as I enjoyed the food every time it was brought here.”
Growing up, the young lad always admired the professional chefs he watched on TV and wanted to be like them in his later years.
Young Max was pushed out from high school due to disciplinary measures decided by the school and was not allowed to return because his parents would not agree to the idea of him going back to school.
He went on to attend vocational centres in the hope of finding work at the end of the day.
Unfortunately, this was to no avail.
“I was not able to get a job immediately after attending a vocational training centre because the course I took did not align with my interests.”
It was not until Max was involved in the Y@W programme that he decided to nourish his interest of cooking and earn a living out of it.
“The first kind of training I ever attended was organized by Y@W back in 2014. It was a training on how to bake cakes and create chicken dishes through deep frying.
“Afterwards, I came back in 2016 and joined a series of basic business training under Youth@Work. I then set out to do my business.
“One of my biggest Y@W gigs was doing catering for the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). It was a four-day training and I was engaged to set up and provide food.”
He went on to explain that doing such big gigs gets very hectic and requires a lot of hard work.
“It’s a lot of pressure when I have to prepare and deliver on time. However, I quite enjoy the adrenaline, especially with the YWCA four days catering which included morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea,” he said.
He continued on, “The drive that keeps me going is my aim and goal at the end of the day.”
At the moment, Max gets help from his mum who usually delivers lunch for young people with disabilities who are doing their training at the Bahai’i centre.
Max and his mother have an agreement where they distribute catering responsibilities equally between them.
While Max’s mother does deliveries, Max himself does the dishes and cleans up.
Max’s unorthodox business has roused the interest of a number of his friends.
“Most of my peers earn their income by selling betel nut and cigarettes in small huts or in front of their homes so they become curious about the activity that I am involved in. I usually get a lot of questions about it,” Max said.
Max also shared that, at the area where he lives, there was a man who used to work at Pacific Casino as a chef.
“I would, at a number of occasions, go and help him out in his kitchen serving noodles and eggs. I really enjoyed it. That experience reaffirmed my interest in becoming a professional chef – a goal I am working towards achieving it at the moment.”
When asked where he sees himself in the next five months and how he is going to achieve it, the young lad replied, “Five months from where I started, I see myself having gained a good amount of experience and would have already paid for most of the utensils I would need in my kitchen.”
He went onto say, “Since starting up my catering business, I have tried to save up my profits. However, because I do not deposit my profits at a bank, I have a tendency to use it up again. This is a major challenge that I have been struggling with for a while.”
Fortunately, he has found an antidote to this, “Whilst attending a refresher training for those of us who are registered under the Y@W Young Entrepreneur’s Component, I found out that I could save my sum of profits under the NPF initiative called YouSave.”
It was with the YouSave scheme that Max realised his profits were growing well, building him bridge to reaching his goals within his planned timeframe.
“At first I did not know what procedures to follow so I could properly save my money. When I came across it during one of our trainings, I knew I had the solution to my challenge.
“The YouSave scheme would allow me to successfully save money as it makes it difficult for me to withdraw whenever it suits me,” he laughed.
“So in five months from now, I would like to see myself opening up a kitchen serving fruits, veggies and local food,” Max said.
At the moment, Y@W and SPCSI are his main customers.
“I have difficulties promoting my set-up – not because I do not have much to show – but because I do not know how.
“My first attempt is to create a page on Facebook and share it with friends in order to build my client base.”
Max is available for business doing catering for any individuals or businesses who might be interested in his menu outline: local motu cabbage and chicken, fruit platters, soup, beef or fish stew, and vegetables.
He concluded by saying, “Work hard on your business – be faithful and committed to whatever you are doing. At the end of the day, you will be able to achieve your goals or for whatever you are aiming for.”
Max is a young entrepreneur who is growing and improving by the day.
His business is at a stage where he is building his client base and is open to anyone who is interested in supporting him.
Being young and venturing into the business world is tough.
He may need support in terms of mentoring on marketing and catering management to take his small scale business to another level where he can expand and develop.
By Ruth Amos