Role Models' Profiles
Sam introduces Rotterdam to the taste of Africa
With two restaurants in Rotterdam, Sam Tesfai has put the cuisine of Africa on the map. Its Eritrean specialties, including banana beer, have been attracting visitors from the city and beyond for years.
Sam Tesfai has been making progress with his two restaurants since 2003. He started with De Smaak van Afrika, in the center of Rotterdam. A few years later, Viva Afrika followed in Rotterdam West. But upon his arrival in the Netherlands, he did something completely different: "When I came to the Netherlands, I was first employed as an electrician. This way I got to know the Dutch customs and eventually adopted them, for example the Dutch lunch. As a car mechanic, my colleagues took their bread and an apple with them. I thought that was strange. I wanted a hot meal at noon!"
Still, Sam adapts quickly. In his spare time, he works at a restaurant in Delfshaven. "I learned everything about doing business there. It has always been my passion to have my own restaurant.” Without support or funding, Sam takes a deep dive and starts his own restaurant, De Smaak van Afrika. "I took the gamble with my own savings. I did take a social hygiene course in advance. I also have an accountant, whom I know through my neighbour. "
Tesfai describes his target audience as "Dutch explorers". These are Dutch people who are curious about African food culture. He would rather not have Eritreans over. According to Sam, they expect that they will get everything for free. To reach his audience, Sam uses his website, a Facebook page and an Instagram account. He acknowledges that it is difficult to keep track of all this regularly. And the best advertising remains word of mouth, says Sam.
Sam does not experience any real difficulties in running his two companies. "I love my job and consider it a hobby. That makes it a lot easier. Sometimes I miss a birthday, but I am willing to do that. The advantages are that I can divide my own time between private and work." In the beginning, it was mainly cultural differences that he had to get used to.
"It was difficult to deal with the directness of the Dutch. But in the meantime, I have become just as direct!"
When asked about his tips for starting entrepreneurs, Sam is indeed clear and direct:
"Hard work, persistence and good staff, that's the key to success!"