With Black Spoon, the first food truck to offer African flavors, Fati Niang has contributed to giving another image of the gastronomy of the continent.
Award for Best African Female Entrepreneur 2014 in France, winner of the 2015 Audience Award at the Sandwich & Snack Show, jury member of the PSE-J (Senegalese Program for Youth Entrepreneurship) competition in 2015, jury member of the international competition 2015 #Mazarsforgood … Fati Niang is at all the forums and events that reconcile entrepreneurship and agribusiness. Two sectors in which she has been undoubtedly an example since she created Black Spoon, the first African food truck in Europe. On the same concept as the French fries barracks, version flavors. That is the whole idea of Black Spoon: make African gastronomy accessible to everyone.
Fond of cooking at tender age
« I wanted to promote the African cuisine, give them their nobility, » says the woman in her thirties who became very early fond of cooking. « My father came from Senegal to France in the 1960s where he worked as a factory worker at Renault and my mother raised us, my six brothers and sisters and me ». As the eldest of the siblings, Fati had to get involved and help with household chores, including cooking. « It was military, everyone had their role. We were angry with our mother because we could not go out the way we wanted. But, in hindsight, we learned a lot. By the age of 12, I was completely independent », she says.
Fati Niang got especially introduced to traditional Senegalese cuisine that she rediscovers in the country, when her family, following a tragedy, left for Senegal. « I was five and we only stayed one year, but I remember it very well », she says. The first of a string of trips that mark her childhood, and finally the career path of Fati. « We traveled extensively because our family was scattered, in Switzerland, in Germany, across France as well. It helped me open up to other cultures », she says.
« I discovered the African cuisine with my mother who trained me very early, by tradition. The African woman must know how to cook well before getting married », recalls Fati. She does not know that this learning will become her passion and livelihood. But before that, Fati, teenager, slightly turbulent, l did not know what she would do. « I was a little revolted, I wanted to assert myself», she says. Against the advice of her parents, she went into modeling for five years. « It did not really work. There were no Blacks in the casting agencies yet», she says. Without a real future plan, Fati enrolled at the university. « Hardly out of high school, I was did not feel empowered, I needed to be more guided».
Fati then took a training in marketing and commerce. So, at 20, she started her first business. « For our long paper topic, we had to do a complete market study. At the time, Hapsatou Sy was skyrocketing, and the issue of lightening cosmetics was in the limelight. With a friend, we started a beauty salon in partnership with dermatologists to educate women about the specificities of black women and to import products from the United States. This is the trigger: Fati fell in love with entrepreneurship. « Do sourcing, the marketing side, invent and create a brand from zero … I loved it! » She says with joy. In addition to enjoying the activity, Fati seemed to have the potential: his project gets the highest score.
«The bankers told me: it is ethnic, it is complicated »
If now, she is convinced through entrepreneurship, she resumes studies before starting again. «I lacked knowledge», she says. In fact, Fati does not like improvisation and prefers to arm herself with all the necessary tools before creating her firm. She enrolled in BTS action-marketing alternately. This led her to land an internship in an architecture firm. « As a sales assistant, I won a first contract of 500,000 euros. They were happy and little by little, the direction hired me. Thus, in ten years, she moved to different positions, to finish as a key account manager. « It was very exciting as an experience, to be immersed in corporate values, to work with very talented architects …».
She was then recruited by Suez Environment, but the experience was short. « Then, I told myself, now I’m ready to start, but after training at AFPA (National Agency for Adult Vocational Training) on the creation and management of business. This training was the trigger: that was when I discovered the food truck concept. The food truck is something young, nomadic, it fits me well. And the expenses are less high than with a restaurant». The idea having been found, it is remains to sell it. Things got complicated. « The bankers told me: we have no returns on the African gastronomy, we do not know if it will work, it is ethnic, it is complicated. I explained that my clients were primarily Europeans …».
With perseverance, Fati succeeded in convincing a banker to support her. Finally, things start. « I like cooking, I like doing business because it is part of my character. I like being free and holding things in my hand. Black Spoon only operates for private events such as the launch of Africa Now with Galeries Lafayette or festivals like Afro Punk. Next step: the launch of a restaurant. « At the same time, I am working on an agricultural project in Senegal where I have been living for almost two years. Through gastronomy, I want to promote local products in Africa and agriculture. But also African culture through fashion, art, etc. »
Support youth entrepreneurship in Senegal
« Black Spoon, it is me, the mixture of France and Africa. » Very quickly noticed with his project, planning to become a franchise and to be exported throughout the world, including in Africa, Fati Niang was invited to participate, as a member of the jury, in the PSE-J 2015 contest. Senegal. A program focused on youth entrepreneurship. An initiative of the Head of State, Macky Sall. In charge of the agri-food category, it plans other projects to support youth entrepreneurship in the sector in Senegal. Muse of the famous brand of Dutch wax, Vlisco, last year, Fati Niang gives Africa another image. More ambitious.