Bradox Osumo graduated with a degree in Biochemistry from Kenyatta University in 2016, aiming to get a solid job in the outside world.
However, jobs were few, and life outside of campus was less exciting for the nimble college graduate.
As a result, he volunteered to join his older sister, who had a side business selling fried fish on the side of the road in Nairobi’s Rosters neighborhood.
“Because I was bored and broke, I asked my sister to hire me as a delivery man across the estate,” Osumo recalls fondly.
With time, he discovered a way into a viable fish business. The young graduate challenged his sister to make him a partner in the company and let him run it full-time, morning, noon, and night.
Although bright but broke, Osumo gambled into an ocean of uncertainty. He rallied his two sisters into the unknown.
In 2018, they were working out plans to have an enclosed facility to sell ready-to-eat fish.
“We collected about 100,000 shillings. I remember my brother-in-law lent us 30,000 shillings which we repaid in five months.’
Requisite documents and rent charges almost killed their dream, but they were going to borrow into business if they had to.
The gamble paid off.
They landed on ‘The Big Fish’ as the name of their business because they aimed to build a big brand out of it, Osumo explains.
“We took our sales online in 2019, and because we do lake fish, clients’ orders became overwhelming. At our kibanda, clients outnumbered our tables and chairs until they began eating in shifts.”
In 2020 The Big Fish dared an expansion into a bigger space, still in Rosters.
As online orders swelled up their physical joint also spilled over with customers.
It was time to go big!
So they fished for another branch in Westlands, Nairobi.
“We were lucky to get a lady whose business had seemingly gone down. She sold to us several commercial kitchen equipment including a deep freezer. She was kind enough to allow us to pay in installments.”
Armed with the power of social media, Osumo tweeted his way to a stable fish business.
“Like a joke I just posted a tweet about our new joint. It went viral and came round with returns. So here we are, with two restaurants, specializing in fish sale as the main dish.”
The Big Fish serves fish in different tastes and textures. One can order dry fry or go wet with plain fish or coconut sauce alongside some side dishes. Both sit-in and take away styles have worked well for the business.
On the 16th of May 2022, Osumo caught a big fish in the person of Raila Odinga. The Azimio One Kenya Alliance presidential candidate made a surprise entry into the Big Fish restaurant in Westlands, with his newly unveiled running mate Martha Karua, among other top Azimio political leaders.
“I don’t know how they located The Big Fish but I think someone might have spotted us online.”
“I saw a lady walk in and we welcomed her as usual. She made a special order for 15 plates and waited calmly. As we were still wondering where her co-guests were, security personnel pounced into our territory and the air changed quite a bit. Before we knew it, Raila Odinga and his Azimio brigade were making their way into the restaurant. Oh what a surprise that was!” Osumo gasps.
“Wah! Me, hosting a presidential candidate and his running mate? That was not even in my dreams. I didn’t even know how to behave, but the great guests were calm, and did not interfere with other customers. Now I can also boast that ‘Baba’ (Odinga) ate at my place,” he says with a lifted poise and a giant giggle.
“The ‘big’ guests were satisfied,” Osumo reports, “and we even took pictures to remember their big day, which became my big day as well.”
And boom! Another leap!
“People started coming more and more. Some even come and ask to sit where ‘Baba’ sat. Others demand that they want to eat on the plate that ‘Baba’ was served in,” Osumo chuckles. “So it’s some good craze they left behind and I am very happy that ‘Baba’ appreciated us even during his Narok rally.”
“The craze spread further to social media and the restaurant has never been the same again,” Osumo adds with a broad smile.
Is he planning to pursue Bio-Technology at some point? We ask.
“No. Not now. Here I swim in my business with passion. I can not leave The Big Fish any time soon. Otherwise I would appear lost without cause. See here…” He points to the busy kitchen, “I have employed many people that I couldn’t have, had I been in someone else’s office as an employee.”
Osumo says that some fifty people feed off the The Big Fish. These include his restaurant staff and delivery workers, mostly motorcyclists.
He has since brought in another one of his sisters to the business, who is running a fruit juice and smoothie business within the same facility.
“That is her corner,” he points. “The staff squeeze out the juice and sell it but my sister sits elsewhere, just counting her cash.”
However one family member is not quite satisfied!
“My dad still believes in white collar jobs. In fact, even now he sends me job opportunities on WhatsApp and pushes me to apply. I think it would be unwise of me to abandon this baby, The Big Fish, now,” he laughs off dad’s pressure. “I hope more parents will appreciate ‘non-suit’ jobs.”
The young entrepreneur credits fellow youths who have helped to market his business online and by word of mouth.
He hopes the government will quash off some licenses charges and give youths sustainable grants toward start ups.
Osumo believes that job creation can just be a hustle away but one has to stay focused and remain disciplined.
“It does not matter even if you win 10 million shillings, today. Without hard work and discipline, you may still find yourself begging in a matter of days,” he cautions.
As our conversation comes to a close. He reiterates his passion for the business, noting he would rather sell fish than wait for mom and dad to support him in these hard economic times.
For now, Bradox Osumo remains hooked on fish.
“I have a life. I have a future ahead of me. But I just want people to know me as a fish monger. I want them to know me as ‘The Big Fish’.