The thought of an entire company worth millions going down the drain in the blink of an eye is worrying, especially if it took years of sweat and toil to build.
For Esmeralda De Souza, CEO of Spez Limited- a catering company in Nairobi- the pain of thinking about failure was too much to suppress when asked about what she was afraid of by Jackson Biko in an interview published by Business Daily on Friday, February 7.
“At this stage of my life, I fear failure. You want to make me cry. It’s been such a long journey. You know you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s a shame not to get there, you know, not to achieve this dream that you have worked hard for. It’s.. just there,” De Souza stated in between heavy sobs.
Esmeralda De Souza, Spelz CEO speaks during the launch of Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative in March 2019
However, she was crying not only because of fear but also for gratitude, thinking about how her life shaped up and the struggles she went through in life.
“There are many miracles that have happened in the last years. Inexplicable miracles..(Cries again). I need to stop crying. Please ask me something else that isn’t emotional,” De Souza stated.
The CEO, who gave birth at 19, also worked as a cocktail waitress and sang as a background vocalist for a band. She also sold french fries to make a living, before realising she had a talent in baking cakes.
“I used to bake cakes. I’ve always been the cake girl. I would do it at home. One day, one of my friend’s mum— who assumed I did catering —asked me if I could cater at her work’s annual general meeting. I called a friend from culinary school. We met the client with a menu and did the event.
“My parents had just retired, which is why I needed the job. I felt like I had burdened them with having a child at 19,” she recalled.
De Souza further dropped out of university, where she was studying geology to bake cakes. Her parents, a Goan-Indian father born in Limuru and mother who hailed from Nyanza region, supported her in the newfound venture.
“My mom has a human resource background and for her, education is everything. I think they agreed because they saw how passionate I was about baking cakes; I’d wake up at 4 a.m. to bake then go to school.
“If they had not agreed I would have been a very unhappy geologist, maybe in Tullow Oil, or somewhere. Maybe I’d be rich, but I’d be unhappy,” she affirmed.
Her catering company has since grown, opening two branches and employing over 60 staff embers.
“I’m happy now that I’m clearer about the business. I’m happy that the team is coming together slowly. I have an amazing team.
“If I lost a client it will definitely make me feel very sad. However, it feels so good when a client sends positive feedback. Maybe the business is connected to self-esteem and happiness. But also, I’m more than business; I’m a wife, a mother, a friend and a relative and I am also happy at just being able to see my children grow,” De Souza stated.
The CEO is married to a doctor and they have two children, a son and daughter.
Esmeralda De Souza (in wedding gown) during her wedding in 2015