A little introduction
So for those of you who are hearing about The Krio Kanteen for the first time, I owe you an introduction. My name is Joe Faulkner and I founded the company in January 2016. I was inspired by my dads cooking and always felt that African food was strangely underrepresented in the British food scene so I decided to do something about it.
I am also a proud British-Sierra Leonean and this identity is at the core of everything I do. It's an identity that has caused me much confusion over the years but has also given me some of the things I cherish most, including Arsenal Football Club and the Sierra Leonean food! It is through the food of Sierra Leone that I am able to showcase the very best of this small West African country and I am proud to say that we'll be celebrating again on March 11th with our next Supper Club at Vagabond Cafe.
Over recent years I have also become excited by the rise of young Afro/Caribbean Brits taking the jump into entrepreneurship and although I was apprehensive at first, I kept on wondering if I could do the same. If I did need any more inspiration, seeing people I had grown up with becoming successful entrepreneurs and watching my brother grow his business from the ground up was definitely the kick I needed. This was something that not only made me very proud, it also created a self-belief that I had previously lacked.
In addition to this, my parents had fostered a pride in my Sierra Leonean heritage which really manifested during university and got me thinking about ways I could help change the perception of Africa and in particular, Sierra Leone. You see, being a Sierra Leonean can be frustrating, to say the least! Firstly, many people don't know that it even exists, and if they do, it is usually because of the civil war, Ebola, Blood Diamonds or the recent mudslides. Now, these are all important events that should be respected and remembered, but when the narrative stops there, you begin to wonder why only one side of the story is ever told. Thankfully, I and many other young Africans are taking up the responsibility of telling the continents untold stories and we are just getting started!
I decided quite early on that Supper Clubs and pop-up events would be a great way to promote Sierra Leonean food and culture. And so, in late 2015 I began to plan my first ever event. The event in 10 Grand Arcade, North Finchley was an experience to say the least and I must say a big thank you to my friends and family who attended in January 2016! You braved the cold, waited patiently (without complaining) for your food and supported me when I really didn’t know what I was doing!
I learnt a lot of lessons that day and although I can’t say there won’t be any more mistakes, I can honestly say that we won’t be making the same ones again! I personally believe that you learn the most by doing and this was a steep learning curve for me but one that gave me so much.
I remember being stressed like never before and worrying about every tiny detail, but when I reviewed the event, I quickly realised that the lessons learnt were so valuable and that I actually enjoyed hosting too. Since then, The Krio Kanteen has hosted more pop-ups, Supper Clubs, provided private catering and taken online orders too and I cannot be prouder of what myself and my team have achieved so far.
You only live once
Now, it's all well and good enjoying what you do and having fun with it but what happens when you want to take it to the next level? That was the question I had to consider recently and making a decision was not going to be easy. Imagine working in the same place for fifteen years. Starting at the age of 17 and slowly climbing your way up the ladder, in a variety of positions and roles (I know, I don’t look that old)! Knowing the cleaners, canteen staff, managers and everybody else in-between. Well, that was my reality and the decision to leave an organisation that I had become embedded in was definitely daunting. In addition to this, I had my family to consider. Having a newborn baby is not easy and the responsibility of family life, mortgage, bills etc. can easily sway one's decisions and for good reason too.
Luckily, for me, however, I have an extremely supportive wife and family who made the choice an easier one than I first imagined. I honestly thought I’d never be brave enough to take the jump but my belief in The Krio Kanteen continued to grow even when I was struggling to juggle being a husband, a new dad, an employee and an entrepreneur all at the same time. However, towards the end of 2017, I knew that it was a now or never situation and I decided to give The Krio Kanteen my best shot.
And so, here we are! I'm a business owner and self-employed (scary times)! It's been a huge culture shock but one that I'm slowly getting used to. The time and effort I can now put into The Krio Kanteen is exactly what I needed and I'm excited to see what the future holds!
Up next, is our first Supper club of the year at Vagabond café and we’ll be celebrating Mother’s Day in style. There will be tasty food provided by whom else but The Krio Kanteen, poetry by Black Supahero and myself (Joe Faulkner) and the chance to pick up some stylish African inspired items by the talented owners of Mavaa Collections. There will be many more events this year and we will also be appearing at a street food market near you very soon, so keep your eyes peeled!