West Africa SHS: Former Student Turned Founder Of Eleven15 Restaurant Recalls Journey To Starting Food Brand

West Africa SHS: Former Student Turned Founder Of Eleven15 Restaurant Recalls Journey To Starting Food Brand

  • Harrison Matti is an alumnus of the West Africa Senior High School (WASS) and founder of the Ghana-based food brand, Eleven15 Restaurant
  • The idea to start his own food venture came while he was in the university, but he officially launched it in 2019
  • The restaurateur opened up about his journey, including overcoming tribulations in the early stages and along the path of growing his business

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At a young age, Harrison Matti learned the skill of entrepreneurship from his birth parents, who taught him how to run a business and take pride in earning his own money.

His interest in entrepreneurship started when he assisted his father, who often returned home with work from the non-governmental organisation, World Vision Ghana, to write Christmas cards and stories for children outside Ghana.

Matti tells YEN.com.gh that his father was an Evangelical Presbyterian Pastor, farmer and an employee of the charity organisation. While his dad taught him how to grow and run a business, his mother passed down his present culinary aptitude. These skills have shaped Matti's life, including influencing him to start his own food brand, Eleven15 Restaurant.

Photos of Harrison Matti.
Meet the founder of Eleven15 Restaurant. Photo credit: eleven15restaurant.
Source: Instagram

Early life outside Ghana's capital, Accra

Like many young people, Matti's journey began with interactions with members of his extended family, being his grandparents. Young Matti initially lived with his grandmother in their home town in Agortime-Kpetoe in Ghana's Volta Region.

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''I spent one year of my school life at the EP Basic School,'' he says.

Matti added that his sight-impaired grandfather taught him how to write his name, inculcating in him the belief that everything is possible.

After a while, Matti returned to the Greater Accra Region where he had been born. He continued his education there as he was enrolled into a primary school called IBM at Madina. However, in class two, he left.

I started school at IBM but had to quit. My teacher then made me polish his shoe twice over two terms. I refused to do so in the third term. I tossed the shoe and polish away one day and was ordered to summon my parents. I was told to leave the school and never return.

He later moved to Baba Yara M/A 1 & 2 Junior High School (JHS) where Matti recalls repeating class five because he was not attending classes regularly.

''I had a bike and was interested in making money. The class six teacher knew my dad and he probably told him I was not attending school. I was asked to go on probation so I did class five twice. My dad asked me to learn carpentry if I would not go to school and that was the turning point for me,'' he told YEN.com.gh.

Matti juggles his education with work

At the junior secondary school, presently known as junior high school (JHS), Matti and his siblings worked on their father's farm in their home town where they cultivated various crops.

I'm from a family of seven children. My dad was entrepreneurial. He loved farming. He had a piece of land in our home town where we harvested flamboyant seeds. He paid us old 50 cedis each per margarine cup.

In Accra, Matti's father also had a farm at the Madina cemetery during their early settlement. They grew yam, maize, cowpeas and cassava. They also kept goats at home which allowed them to earn more money.

Besides his father, Matti's mother, a professional fashion designer, equipped him with some cooking skills.

My mother did a lot of sewing. She also sold charcoal and opened a chop bar. I was the male you'd find at home because my sister was too young. I was attending a shift school (morning and afternoon shifts) then.

Matti also juggled his education with operating his family's corn mill business.

Initially, someone was running it but could hardly make GH¢100 in a month. Then he went on a Christmas trip elsewhere and my dad asked me to take over. I made GH¢100 in one week. From then on, I was made to take over the corn mill and juggle it with my studies.

Upon completing his JHS education, Matti's family shut down the corn mill business because they couldn't trust anyone to run it.

Matti's senior high school and tertiary education

Though older than most of his peers, the teenager navigated through the West Africa Senior High School (WASS) as a General Arts student and joined the cadet group for extracurricular activities. It was at this level that he desired a career in the military.

I originally wanted to be a military officer. I applied after SHS and was selected, but my father took me to visit a family friend who was a colonel. My father's friend said he didn't understand why I wanted to join the military instead of attending university. He explained that I was better off with a degree in the military. So, I agreed to go to the university. I had already gained admission into the University for Development Studies (UDS).

Life presents Matti with challenges

However, Matti encountered a stumbling block when his father refused to fund his university education because his siblings' tuition was stressing his father. At that pointy, he wanted Matti to join the military because of financial constraints.

Determined to continue his studies after graduating from SHS in 2007, Matti used his savings from a laundry job he was engaged in and the support from his siblings to pay his initial university fees. However, his father eventually came through to assist him.

Matti still clung to the army dream even at this stage of his life. After completing his national service at the St. Charles Senior High School in Tamale, he applied to join the army but was not accepted.

The photo below shows clients at Eleven15 Restaurant

Matti's journey to starting Eleven15 Restaurant

While in UDS, he cooked a lot for himself and his friends. However, his finances were not good enough back then for him to start a business.

''I started university at age 20. I studied Development Studies and finished the programme in July 2012 but graduated in November 2012. I got a job after my national service in October 2013 but felt underpaid,'' said Matti.

So, he began a side job to boost his income and that was how the food brand idea was birthed.

''I was engaged in a laundry business from SHS to university. I quit the laundry job when I secured a position at the Ghana Community Radio Network (GCRN) as the project support officer. I then started my own laundry business with my brother, along with the new job. I later stopped the cleaning venture and founded the food business.

Clients enjoy themselves at Eleven15 Restaurant in the video below:

Matti quits his job to concentrate on his culinary business

In September 2017, Matti quit his job to focus on growing his business, but he could only open officially in 2019. He recalls funding the venture with earnings from a consultancy job he did for DW Academy where he conducted training sessions on financial sustainability and viability with participants from several radio stations across Ghana.

''That's how I got to raise money for my first restaurant. I then added other branches,'' he tells YEN.com.gh.

Matti faces turbulent times in business

Life, however, threw mountains of challenges at Matti. He was forced to shut down two branches.

Although, I officially opened Eleven15 Restaurant in 2019, I opened another branch on May 9, 2020 but shut it down on May 14 because the deal was unsuccessful.

Matti opens Eleven15 Restaurant in 2019:

When the restaurateur relocated to Adjiringano in Accra in September 2020, he opened another one but shut it down in 2022 because his landlord sold the property that housed them.

I had invested everything I had and other investments from family and friends. In fact, that branch landed me my first interview. Unfortunately, the landlord called on my birthday to break the news.

Matti admits his venture is surviving and barely making it with only two branches.

There is the Abokobi branch with two workers and the Lakeside branch with nine staff including myself and my wife. I have yet to give up on entrepreneurship, but I don't want to invest in a property that is not mine again.

Video captures the interior of one of the restaurants:

Matti pursues other ventures

The ordeal with his former landlord that collapsed the Adjiringano branch of his business has greatly affected Matti's passion for the food business. He now works for Easy Water for Everyone, a US-based NGO as the regional director and head of the company in Ghana, Senegal and Uganda. He also doubles as a part-time lecturer at the Lakeside University College, Ghana (LUCG).

The business owner and educator is also a doctoral (PhD) candidate at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and a master's student pursuing an MBA in Impact, Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Professional Studies (UPSA) Accra.

Before these accomplishments, he had obtained his first master's degree in Local Economy Development at the Institute of Local Government Studies.

Matti says that though he has plans to venture into other sectors and businesses, he wants to focus on his consultancy job and education for now. The family man's future is bright despite his entrepreneurial journey challenges.

Ghanaian businessmen who moved from poverty to millionaires

In a previous story, YEN.com.gh reported on some Ghanaian businessmen who were born in low-income homes but have used the country's stable economic climate to establish and grow their businesses.

Dr Osei Kwame Despite, Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom, Dr Ernest Ofori Sarpong, Kennedy Agyapong and Dr Kwaku Oteng are known to have had humble beginnings but are now thriving as some of the country's most successful businessmen due to their perseverance, innovation and hard work.

These businessmen and millionaires came from poverty to build empires, serving as role models for new firms and entrepreneurs.

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Source: YEN.com.gh

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