By Iwara U. Iwara
Remember her? Yes…OK. No?…Emmm! Well, Tina JB Ofem is the petite, strikingly beautiful young lady who for some time, tantalized many customers from her Harbour Junction by MOPOL base, on the Murtala Muhammed highway, Calabar, CRS, feeding them full with her exquisitely roasted plantain and fish, taken down with a traditional tastefully done sauce. As she hand fans her roasting delights, under her collapsible umbrella, a squint sits on her face and demonstrates the seriousness with which she pursues her trade, ensuring in the process that the customer who decides to eat in or eat out or even eat on the go, gets maximum satisfaction.
Her craft is built around ripe or unripe roasted plantain, christened ‘Bóle’, with mouth watering add-ons. How the add-ons come depend on customer choice and taste. While many of her peers will firmly turn their backs on an entreprise like Tina’s, she proudly tells me that roasting and selling ‘Bóle’ is something she began to do because she enjoys to be “financially independent”.
Her eyes are lit, rolling in their sockets while she passionately reveals that, “… right from the very day I took the bold step to venture into this business, I have not looked back and I am not ashamed to market the works of my hands. I know for sure that because I am not ashamed to do what I am doing, God has severally sent helpers my way.” Yes, even Cross River State governor, Ben Ayade, awed by her enterprising spirit, sometime ago, encouraged her with a handsome sum of money and further implored other youths in CRS to take a cue from her and work at elevating their crafts. Shortly after the encounter with the governor, “Tina blow”, like they say in local parlance and massively trended on social media and earned her the sobriquet, “International Bóle Girl”, marking a subtle arrival on the personal business tarmac. However, “there were days and times I almost gave up; especially in the beginning when I just got started. I encountered lots and lots of challenges and it was never rosy from the start.”
She confidently insists, “I make delicious meals, both local and continental but my main focus is on grills and smoothies. I grill fish of all kinds, chicken and turkey, to either enjoy it with roasted plantain(bole) or roasted yam, potatoes or chips”, and leaves me salivating, even licking my lips. The University of Cross River State, Guidance and Counseling graduate further insists that her unique selling proposition is her sauce, “it so special”, she tells me. There is a bowl before me and buoyed by her confident tone, I dip my index finger in the bright red sauce and cautiously move it to my mouth. The finger rests first on my parted lips before the taste stings my tongue; but it is a tastefully impressive sting. She gleefully smiles as I nod in agreement that her sauce is wow.
Abuja…here she comes!
Tina arrived Abuja for her compulsory national youth service and served at the Petroleum Equalization Management Fund. After service she told herself it was time to play on the big stage. “Long ago, I subtly discovered that the world had moved from job search to job creation and I wasn’t going to be left behind.” What she has clearly done is to sit back, do her business feasibility studies and come forth with a brand, “TJ’s VENDORS”, flag shipped by her famous ‘Bóle’, soldering on with roasted fish, chicken, turkey etc…and then there is an array of perfectly blended smoothies.
She officially opens shop in Abuja this March, 2021 at 69 Road, by Amala Bush Kitchen, Gwarimpa, Abuja FCT. “It is the beginning of a brand that will hopefully go global, and stand so tall” she optimistically tells me. She is indeed a firm favourite for focused lady of the year. Curiously I am pushed to ask her what life philosophy drives her and she mouths it “…we rise by lifting others.” We will count the days and the years but certainly going forward, Tina will be around and successfully too; our own case of another CRS to the world story.
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