Tosin Samuel is the talent behind the popular TSpices Kitchen account on social media, famous for its viral, delicious recipes. In a conversation with PiggyVest, she shared tips for success on social media and reveals who eats the many great-looking dishes she makes online.
What was it like growing up?
Nothing unusual, I think. I have three siblings. My parents were regular people living in Ogun state. When my dad passed, we moved to Igarra, a village in Edo state.
Sorry for your loss. Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I studied Literature in English at OAU.
Were you an entrepreneur in school?
Yes. There was no other way to survive. I sold sunglasses and stuff like that. I also sold fried meat.
How did you get the money you used to start?
I started with small money, ₦5k. Then I started getting invited to events because my peppered chicken was so good! So good!
You are making me wish I went to OAU just so I could taste this chicken.
[Laughs] Seriously, it was so good! And some people even remember me from that on Twitter.
So, what was your first employment?
I worked for a pure water company. I used to get paid ₦10k for jobs I did in between school sessions.
When you were getting invited to bring fried chicken for parties, what were you charging?
Maybe just ₦2k over the expenses. My eyes were not really open. [Laughs]
How easy was it to do all of this while schooling?
Not the easiest. I didn’t leave school with a great grade.
At least you left.
I guess. But then I knew I didn’t really want to work for anyone.
After school, did you go home?
I didn’t go home o. I went to Ibadan and stayed with a friend there. She was selling mocktails and grilled fish. I used to help her, and then I started doing my own thing. I became a food vendor and my target was young workers.
What gave you the courage to start?
I love food, and back in school I volunteered with caterers. Somehow I thought that I could start with efo riro. Heavy one! The one that has plenty pepper! [Laughs] I would just put up the food on my Blackberry status and guys would start making requests.
Where did the initial capital come from?
Well, I told one person and when that person sent in money, I used it to make my first plate. And from there, things started to happen.
Very smart move.
I made that first one very rich and then I put up that photo. “I just made this for my customer, so come and patronise my business.”
Was business good?
Yes. I became overwhelmed even. And then I left where I was staying to go to another friend’s place. I started making food for a group of construction workers. And then I had to go for NYSC.
Where did you serve?
So, what happened to your business?
It had to be put on hold. I ended up at the accounts department of a ministry. I was working from around 8am to 8pm. It was bad.
And all you were getting was ₦19k?
Yes. They weren’t paying, but my boss and other people would sometimes give me some money.
Did you get back to business?
I tried, but I realised that Lokoja wasn’t the right place for what I wanted. So I decided that I would just go back to Ibadan after. But in the meantime, I knew I needed to learn other dishes so that I’d have options when I returned.
How long did this take?
Maybe a year. But my boss convinced me to stay back after NYSC, and I did. [Laughs] To think I was crying when I was first posted.
And this whole year there was no real income via a job?
[Laughs] Not really. But we had several visitors who were generous to the corper, even if I wasn’t really a corper anymore.
The luckiest corper ever.
So, when did the internet come into your life and business?
I started taking photos to remember what I was cooking. Someone saw the photos and said I should share it online. The idea stuck in my mind and one day, as I was praying, the Holy Spirit said I should try. I did that and it just blew. For someone that had less than 100 followers, I went to over 5,000 followers in about three days!
It was just a photo step by step guide. People started sending DMs, saying it was amazing. That was in 2018. I just started putting up the other photos I had taken. Even with the terrible picture quality, they loved it. Maybe it is because nobody was really doing it on social media at the time.
What did this boost do for you?
I wasn’t getting anything from it, besides the interaction. That was in 2018, and then I decided to take it seriously in 2019. It was at that point I started taking lessons online through Udemy, Coursera and LinkedIn especially. I learned how to respond to people online, how to create content and so on. I wasn’t really doing anything else besides work, so I had time.
What was the most important thing you learned?
Human interaction. I can respond to feedback better.
At what stage did it become a business?
2020 was when I started to take social media as a potential source of income. I just wanted to post more, but I didn’t have a clear idea of how to earn money. I think it became serious for me when I put up my recipe book and over 200 pre-ordered it.
How much was it?
It was ₦3,000. And I didn’t even have to struggle. I just got a guy to make a pdf of my old photos and paid him ₦5,000. [Laughs] And then Opay came and offered me ₦10k per content, which was wonderful. And the book finally reached over 1,000 people.
Incredible! What was the next big thing to happen?
Brands. People mentioned my name to a bank and they reached out to me as an influencer. That was in 2020. The fact that a bank wanted to work with me was dizzying.
Since then, how has it been?
It has been mind-blowing. And it was in 2021 that I decided to make it a business-business. It has not been easy, but it has been rewarding making money from my passion.
What has been the most financially rewarding campaign?
A drink company is like my family brand now. We work together quite frequently. Sometimes I do a batch of videos for them, and if each costs hundreds of thousands, you can do the math.
Are there any brands you won’t work with?
Yes! [Laughs] Kanyamata people and waist trainer sellers have come to me with money. I couldn’t do it because I don’t use them. [Laughs]
Are there any opportunities you have missed because you are in Lokoja and not Lagos?
Yes. Several! So I have been thinking about moving. I just have not decided.
Besides brands, what are your other revenue streams?
Recipe book and cooking classes. I just got on YouTube.
How has that been?
I got my first cheque some weeks ago!
Yay! How much was it?
What has been your more lucrative platform so far?
Instagram. Brands notice you more there. I used Twitter more for the recipe book sales. Twitter can be strange. I got very harsh feedback on Twitter over my voiceover recently, but it was double-edged because I got more engagement after that. People actually went to watch my video and said they liked it, even as some were sending me very harsh DMs.
How did you react to that?
I didn’t. I just laughed.
You are a saint. I am sure people want to know who eats all of the meals you make?
Me! [Laughs] My sister is also here. Sometimes I give it to my neighbours.
Any tips for people looking to grow their brand online?
It gets tiring, so you need to know if you want to really do it. Then you have to be patient. It doesn’t happen overnight…
But you got 5000 followers in days.
[Laughs] That was just luck, but I had to continue posting after that. It takes time. You also need to be open to learning. I set out time to learn. Before I really started, I had specific times when I watched a lot of YouTube videos. You really have to learn. And, finally, know God.