Inside her small hotel in Ondiek estate, about 30 people are enjoying their lunch.
Mama Hassan is at the counter serving more customers who come in at frequent intervals.
Within no time the place is full and there is no space to sit.
For the past 23 years this has been her job.
“I wake up at 6am daily to start off my day. I need to get everything ready by 10am before customers start coming in,” she said.
The big gap
Amina Akinyi,66, famously known as Mama Hassan saw a gap in her area.
After dropping out of school in Form Three, the mother of eight got married and moved to stay away from her parents’ home.
One time, she wanted to buy bhajia for her child but she could not find any around.
Failure to get bhajia around opened my eye to the gap, and I grabbed the opportunity and started making bhajiaMama Hassan
Bhajia is peeled potatoes chopped in circular shapes, dipped in wheat flour paste before being deep-fried.
“Failure to get bhajia around opened my eye to the gap, and I grabbed the opportunity and started making bhajia,” furthered Mama Hassan as she stretched to get an onion to make some salad.
‘Kwa Mama Hassan’
When she started the business, she had less sales.
People living around were not used to such kind of food stuffs.
Being a Muslim, she started inviting members from a nearby Mosque to have a meal there.
Fast forward she started living with her grandson Hassan.
“Hassan was my favourite and so he was always with me,” she said.
Being a jovial child, he started bringing his friends to have a plate of bhajia after school.
Within no time, the place would be full with children and they named the place ‘Kwa Mama Hassan’.
She started making good returns from the busness, and expanded the area to accommodate the overwhelming customers.
When schools close for the holidays the place is always full.
This has been a trend since 2004.
When Lake Region Bulletin visited the hotel, Mama Hassan was busy attending to her customers.
According to Edward Ochieng, one of the clients, many young men take their girlfriends there for lunch dates.
When we are out of school, we come here to interact with students from other schools and that is how I found a partnerMama Hassan
“When we are out of school, we come here to interact with students from other schools and that is how I found a partner,” said the 22 year old.
Mama Hassan also agrees with this as she says she has been asked for special meals by a number of couples.
“They always come to ask for special meals when they have a date with their lovers,” she said.
During the 2007 post-election violence she lost almost all her stock and tools of trade, and had to start up a fresh.
And by this time, competition had started as various individuals started similar business.
This competition, she says, almost messed up her pricing as other vendors started selling bhajia at a lower cost.
With bhajia joints sprouting in every corner every other day, it has increasingly become difficult to make sales since potential clients are exposed to countless joints.
This competition has increasingly made it difficult to make sales.
Despite these hurdles, the trade still thrives as she still believes she is on top of the game.
“I still make profits though not as much as when schools are closed,” said Mama Hassan.
With the age catching up with her, Mama Hassan says she wants to retire from the business but has high hopes on her daughter who she says has started managing the business.
Maintaining the name
Maintaining the name of the business is her fear just like for many other business people.
“I wanted to retire but am still holding on until my daughter can fully take over,” she says.
Despite being known for her bhajia, she has also brought in other delicacies.
I wanted to retire but am still holding on until my daughter can fully take overMama Hassan
Customers can now enjoy juice, pilau, samosas and Kebabs.
The mother of eight also urged young ladies to venture into business and not depend on others for sustainability.