Afiya is the Finance and People Lead at HomeHero. As well as having a head for numbers, Fi has pursued a number of entrepreneurial ventures, one of which landed her in Forbes for her health-conscious Caribbean food business.
Where Things Started
After graduating from UCL, I started working in finance in the City at Deloitte within the energy and resources department. I was primarily focussing on renewable energy in my internship. Ironically, when I joined formally a year later, I was working solely on oil, gas and mining clients! It was a big shift but I learned so much about the industry, getting the chance to work out in the DRC, Gabon, Tunisia, and France, as was one of the few French speakers on the team. Towards the end of my time there I started working with utility companies – EDF being an example – which made for a great synergy when I ended up at HomeHero.
Falling In Love With Entrepreneurship
While at Deloitte I was studying for my ACA exams; I was keen to obtain business acumen and explore my longtime interest in entrepreneurship. I wanted to grasp a better understanding of things like the P&L of a business, how a balance sheet works, and delve deeper into how FTSE 500 businesses operate.
My first business was Lime Hut. Working in the city, we kept pretty crazy hours and it was hard to find a healthy lifestyle balance. I started to think, if I can‘t get to the gym, how can I make sure I’m eating well? One lunch I took some colleagues to an Afro Caribbean food stall and it was delicious but we all ended up in a bit of a food coma. It got me thinking about how to introduce a healthy slant to that cuisine, so I started hosting supper clubs with my take on it. Then one of the partners at Deloitte came to a supperclub and suggested I explore the possibilities of expanding on what could be done with the concept.
The Trigger to Do It
I got really sick at the end of 2016 and ended up in bed for three months with an illness that proved hard to diagnose. Doctors called me “Mystery Girl” as they had no idea what was wrong. Being in bed made me reflect on things and ultimately decide to give Lime Hut a go full time. Deloitte also gave me a huge vote of confidence by giving me the option of taking a sabbatical to give things a go – and come back if it didn’t work!
I started by setting up a street food stall in Soho, which was less risky than a 5-year lease in a brick and mortar store. My life went from being suited-and-booted for work to wearing my little brother’s tracksuit bottoms, driving a red van, lugging gas canisters through the rain to Soho, and selling healthy contemporary Caribbean food. We also started to get booked for private gigs, doing collaborations with Nike, Puma, and River Island, and then went into our own events- anything from Twerk Brunches to Paint, Punch and Munch.
I learned quickly that perfection is the energy to progress, and you need to make mistakes to improve your game. I used to be terrified of failure and now I can’t wait to fail quickly in order to learn.
The overarching drive behind Lime Hut was that I have a younger brother who has special needs, so was deemed unemployable. The aim was to build Lime Hut up to create a business that would give my brother a purpose, and enable him to have input. He’s our CTO – Chief Tasting Officer – and comes during college holidays for work experience days. Young special needs adults are often destined to a life sheltered from society and sat at home. We don’t know exactly what model we’ll land on for him, but hope to grow it to keep his days filled with reason and perhaps move to a brick and mortar site.
I set up Lime Hut Helps when I created the business. I realised underrepresentation was a real issue in the workplace so started mentoring sixth form students who would work at Lime Hut on the odd weekend. Every six weeks we would meet up for anything from CV writing workshops to personal statements, elevator pitches, and building competent skills. I wanted to offer something creative that didn’t just appeal to those looking for corporate placements.
My next venture came out of my experiences working at Lime Hut. I collaborated with so many female-led businesses crippled by a fear of the accounting side of business. I realised I’d taken for granted what I knew, so started hosting workshops with my co-founder to demystify the scary world of accounting and finance. Enter Coco Financial. At its heart, it’s a community that empowers as many female-led startups businesses or freelancers as possible to make their money work for them. Our workshops are very meme- and gif-heavy to make the workshops digestible and relatable.
I came across HomeHero when I attended their Black History Month event Meet The Founders at The Curtain in 2019. I loved the event and when Kenny mentioned HomeHero was growing I went up and introduced myself as a freelance consultant. I felt I could add some value. We went for a coffee and the next week I was at HomeHero, soon after joining on a permanent basis.
My Top Money Tips for Getting Set Up in Business
- Set yourself forecasts and budgets so that you can track your progress. For example, I recommend setting aside one day a quarter to track where you are, if aspiring to grow!
- Cash flow is the number one thing. I like to say “Cash is Queen” and for that reason negotiate with suppliers for longer payable days and make sure, if you can, it’s not on receipt. Try and make sure your receivables from customers are the reverse, always on receipt. The end goal is positive cash flow!
- Tax and accounting is always the afterthought. Set out good bookkeeping practices from the get-go. Otherwise, you’re constantly having to play catch up. It then becomes a much more expensive and time-consuming task.
Finally, I recommend…
How I Built This by Guy Raz. The entire podcast series is brilliant but the Wikipedia and 5 Guys episodes are particular favourites of mine.
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