Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Joe Osawaye and I’m originally from Nigeria. I am the owner of Kiza Restaurant and Lounge in Dubai.
I come from a business-centred family. I can trace my first entrepreneurial experience to when I used to help my mother with her bakery business. Later on, I also helped my father with his automotive business.
I am a father, husband, friend, and entrepreneur. I see myself as a creator. Joe is an expression of a creator.
What was your key driving force to become an entrepreneur?
To be honest, I truly do not know. I don’t think I set out an initial plan; I didn’t dedicate serious thought to becoming an entrepreneur. It just happened. I guess what I carried inside me was a restlessness of some sort: not wanting to settle for the usual or the ordinary. The driving force could have been myself, what I could become and my imagination with things I could do creatively without certain limitations.
How did the Kiza concept come about and what sets you apart?
Vision, courage and passion sets us apart. Kiza began when a friend of mine recognised a gap in the market, and we decided to fill it.
Kiza Dubai is not simply a restaurant but a premium African hospitality brand and a place to enjoy phenomenal Pan-African cuisine, Afrobeats music and the unique African culture. Our vision at Kiza is “Africa inspiring the world”. This propels us to put the Kiza brand on to the world stage, giving everyone the joy of experiencing a truly Pan-African adventure.
Kiza focuses on bringing the African experience to the world. From music to the arts and crafts scene, the emergence of African culture is clear and present. Once we get people through the doors of Kiza, the ambience gets them. It does not matter which country you’re from; we make sure that there’s a sense of belonging that transcends cultures. Most people cannot describe it; we call it the ‘spirit’ of Africa.
Why is Dubai your first location in the region?
Dubai is a very dynamic, forward-thinking and cosmopolitan city with over 200 nationalities. This attractive setting was ideal for us to set up our first and only location in the region for now. Kiza adds to the diversity of the city. Dubai has created a fantastic ecosystem that attracts the rest of the world to come live, work and play.
How does Kiza support the community?
Kiza is at the forefront of anything to do with Africa in Dubai and the UAE as a whole. As we say, we are Africa inspiring the world. We have created a platform that brings together every African, Afrocentric and lovers of Africa under one roof, where they call it home away from home.
Kiza is the place where the spirit of Africa comes alive. We are the African community in Dubai and the neighbouring cities. We showcase Africa and its culture through sight, sound and taste through different events and offerings on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. We also partner with other like-minded organisations to achieve this same goal—a united community. We help foster a tightly-knit community across the board, which is also key to our success.
What kind of culture exists in your organisation, and how did you establish it?
We practise “Ubuntuism”, which literally means ‘I am because we are’ or ‘Humanity towards others’. We all succeed or fail together. We are all connected. We are one big family where we all pull together in the same direction based on our vision. The only way to establish this ideal is by personal example and exemplary leadership. We observe this closely in our restaurant operations.
What’s your idea of success?
Success to me is being able to create an environment where people can flourish, where they can express their talents, gifts and skills to the limit and be rewarded for it—making greatness out of the seemingly ordinary. This is my passion and where I get fulfilment.
What are you passionate about?
My passion is life itself—what one can make out of it by pursuing one's dreams fearlessly.
What entrepreneurial tricks have you discovered to keep you focused and productive in your busy day-to-day schedule?
I don’t know if they are tricks, but the two main things that keep me focused are faith and hope.
What key activities would you recommend entrepreneurs to invest their time in?
It is quite tough being an entrepreneur, so things that build up one’s morale spiritually, mentally and physically are highly recommended. Taking time out of your busy schedule to bless and support others also helps.
What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
Dare to follow your passion fearlessly, never give up; do not be afraid to fail. Fail, fail, and fail early to succeed. Believe in yourself, as most of the time you will be your only cheerleader until people start to see results.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to give up their 9 - 5 to start a business?
Know thyself; entrepreneurship is not for everybody. It is a completely different ball game, and you must count the cost before leaving. I advise you to do something on the side first, build some sort of competence there before giving up your 9 - 5 job. Starting a business could be quite stressful but also rewarding if and when you succeed.
How do you look after your mental health?
I look after my mental health by not taking myself too seriously, even when I am very serious or focused on a task. It takes the pressure off, leaving room to be human and vulnerable. One’s mental health should never be taken for granted. Know where to draw the line, take a lot of rest, and give yourself enough time—great things take time to actualise.
What book has inspired you the most?
The Bible is definitely the book that inspires me the most. I also find that the self-help classic Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill has left impressionable principles in my mind.
What’s that one quote you live by?
“Whatever my hand finds to do, I will do it with all my might passionately.”
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