Owl Have You Know

Ope Amosu '14, talks to host Christine Dobbyn, about his passion for representing West African culinary cuisine and culture in Houston through his restaurant, ChopnBlok.

Show Notes

Ope Amosu '14, talks to host Christine Dobbyn, about his passion for representing West African culinary cuisine and culture in Houston through his restaurant, ChopnBlok.

A transcript of this episode is available here

What is Owl Have You Know?

Owl Have You Know is Rice Business’ podcast created to share the experiences of alumni, faculty, students and other members of our business community – real stories of belonging, failing, rebounding and, ultimately, succeeding. During meaningful conversations, we dive deep into how each guest has built success through troubles and triumphs before, during and after they set foot in McNair Hall.

Christine Dobbyn:
Today on Owl Have You Know.
Ope Amosu:
It's not about me at all. I never want it to be about me. But I do believe that a lot of the principles, the experiences, and the entire ethos of what ChopnBlok is about is a reflection on what it's taken for me to get to where I am today.
Christine Dobbyn:
Ope Amosu's idea for ChopnBlok actually came after he graduated from Rice Business. But his passion for West African food and culture has always been there. He carved out a spot in Houston's culinary scene. But with the overall experience being such a big part of his venture, COVID has definitely had an impact. He talks about how it's impacted him as an entrepreneur, what he means when he talks about the words alignment when it comes to work family balance, and what's next for his business in 2021. Welcome to Owl Have You Know, Ope. How are you doing today?
Ope Amosu:
I'm doing well. It's great to be here on the show and great to chat with you.
Christine Dobbyn:
We were talking a little bit about your name, and you were telling me that everyone pretty much knows you as Ope, but Ope is really the way to actually say your name. Do a lot of people have troubles with that?
Ope Amosu:
Oh yeah. Yeah. I mean, everybody knows me as Ope, and I often refer to myself as Ope as well, but the proper way to actually pronounce the short form of my name is Ope.
Christine Dobbyn:
Let's talk about ChopnBlok, a company you founded. And you talk about it being the cultural crossroads, where local communities and West African culinary traditions intersect. Can you elaborate on that, and tell us more about what it means to you?
Ope Amosu:
Yeah. I think it's a personification of the Diaspora to a certain extent. When I think of ChopnBlok to me, it's bigger than just food. It's more about a cultural narrative and a cultural platform. And I look at my own life experiences, being of West African descent, specifically Nigerian, but growing up in Houston. Houston also having such a large West African community, actually largest in the country, and seeing that the lives that I've been around and myself, it's one where it would be incomplete to only tell one side of the story. And what I mean by that is for me to only share the West African part of my story, where the Houston part is also really big, right? And I think we're at a point in time where we're starting to see that permeate more in society. Where a lot of West African, even pop culture, is really synonymous with American pop culture. And so ChopnBlok is really that crossroads where all the different aspects of culture, be it food, be it language, be it music intersects to create some sort of experience for all to enjoy.
Christine Dobbyn:
When you first came up with this concept, while you are Rice Business, we know Houston is talked about a lot for its culinary offerings, but did you find that there was somewhat of a void in the West African choices here in Houston?
Ope Amosu:
So I would say the idea actually came to me in different times throughout life, but I wouldn't even say when I was at Rice, I really dwelled upon it much. The revelation really came after I had graduated from Rice, and spent some time even further away from Houston. Growing up in Houston, as I mentioned, it having such a large West African community, a lot of the aspects of the culture were still accessible to me because I knew where to go and find them.
But however, as I left Houston, actually upon graduating Rice, I moved to Philadelphia, lived in the Northeast for a bit, and traveled and did different rotations around the world, I didn't necessarily have that same knowledge of where those pockets were in the different towns or cities that I was spending time in. And so that distance I would say, along with just the natural affinity that I have from my culture and the yearning for things that I at sometime may have even taken for granted, is really kind of what spoke to me and really let me understand the void that I felt was a bigger problem in society than I had realized before.
Christine Dobbyn:
Who is your customer?
Ope Amosu:
I think my customer is anyone who wants a fresh, honest, friendly, flavorful experience. And what I mean by that is I think there's so many different ways to enjoy the offering that we provide. We have folks who, and I'm just going to speak specifically to the food aspect, we have folks who just really want to try something that they haven't necessarily had the experience eating before. So it's a diverse customer base from that standpoint. You can call them foodies, you can call them gastronomists, folks who want that experience. But then you also have a large contingent who also are people of West African descent who have grown up embracing this food, embracing the culture, and seeing it kind of being positioned in a way that's familiar, yet slightly different than where they have experienced it before is intriguing. And so we just make sure that we follow through so that they can fully enjoy the way that we are packaging the overall experience.
Christine Dobbyn:
There are people out there sometimes who are scared to try something new. So if I was someone who really hadn't had many culinary experiences, my palate isn't maybe very mature or advanced, how would you describe West African offerings to them, and sort of entice them to give it a try?
Ope Amosu:
Yeah, I think a lot of it really comes from the education and the storytelling. I find that, regardless of your background, folks can not deny a good storyline, they cannot deny good food, as well as they can't deny good music, right? Those three things are always undefeated. So despite your familiarity, or your assumption of your familiarity with the foods, our job is to educate you on what it is that the foods are comprised of. And as we do so, oftentimes we find out that there's a lot of parallels in the dishes that
we're presenting that are somewhat similar or even completely familiar to you that you didn't necessarily realize before.
So we cook with a lot of rices. ChopnBlok is heavy on the rice concept. And that's because West Africans tend to eat a lot of rice, and it's prepared in different ways. So we have different dishes that we like to position first, for those who really just kind of want to taste the experience. One is our jollof jambalaya, which is synonymous with... So jollof rice is a smoky tomato based rice dish, and it's probably the most traditional or most popular West African dish that's out there. It's popular because every pretty much every West African country has their rendition of it. And there's a, I guess, a fun banter across the countries on whose rendition is the best.
But then you can also bring that all the way back down to Houston to the South. And it's often said that jollof rice is the precursor to Southern jambalaya. So either you know jollof rice, or you know jambalaya. Either of those is going to kind of strike your interest, and now you have something to refer it back to. But as you taste it, you also taste not only the familiarity, you also start to taste other flavors that you might not have necessarily had before in things that you've eaten in the past. So yeah, it's a lot about education and it's a lot about really understanding where your customer's coming from.
Christine Dobbyn:
Now, my mouth is watering. So you started with ChopnBlok and now you have Chopd+Stewd. Can you talk a little bit about the difference, and where you've sort of gone with the business from its inception?
Ope Amosu:
So ChopnBlok is really a food and beverage concept that is used to just kind of be a platform to really showcase culture widespread. And so really if you want to say what's your most tangible product, that's obviously food, the types of dishes that we provide, that's kind of how we get the ears of our consumers. But now, before we said we want to go ahead and launch ChopnBlok and create a restaurant because the initial vision was for ChopnBlok to be a fast, casual concept that can be replicated. We want to be able to replicate and be in different markets around the country, ambitiously around the world.
We said, "Well, that's the pie in the sky vision? How do we test that?" And so testing it to validate our assumptions, but then testing it to ultimately really get the opinions of the consumer was really important to us. And so we said, "Well, what's a clever way to do it is to run some sort of dining series." And being that we're from Houston, being that I'm a big fan of Houston and just I love afrobeats and hip hop music. And the hip hop scene in Houston is known as the chopped and screwed scene. So being that it's from Houston, we said, "Let's put a play on it, and call it Chopd+Stewd. And let's go ahead and start running a dinner series or a pop-up series where we can test the concept." So ChopnBlok is the big vision, Chopd+Stewd was just really our pop-up series to really test out the concept and learn before we took that next step in really building out the concept further.
Christine Dobbyn:
So where was Chopd+Stewd in the process when COVID hit and how has that impacted all, all of your business?
Ope Amosu:
Yeah, so I think Chopd+Stewd is obviously what people started to engage with at first because they heard about ChopnBlok, and they want an opportunity to dine with us. So they would come to one of our Chopd+Stewd dining experiences. And fortunately as we started to do those in 2018, it really picked
up over the years. So fast forward to 2020, funny enough, we were actually getting ready to host our largest dining event. Another one of our restaurant takeovers, where we would partner with an existing restaurant in the Houston area, use their facilities to turn it into ChopnBlok for a night. We were in the middle of a big pop-up, or I guess we were selling tickets for a big pop-up, we're pretty much sold out. COVID hit. And we had to cancel that.
But at the same time behind the scenes, we were also in discussions on securing actual space for our brick and mortar concept to launch at the end of 2020. Just with obviously the world that we live in now, we paused those discussions and we didn't necessarily want to also fade the black. We wanted to continue to engage with our audience. And so one of the ways that we figured would be a good opportunity to engage with our following was to meet them where they were, and that's at home.
So that basically kind of forced our hand into another aspect that we had thought about as a growth avenue for us somewhere in the future was to actually work on packaging our products and distributing them nationally. So yeah, COVID really kind of helped us to speed that aspect of our concept up to where now we feel really good about our ability to take some of the fan favorites and share them with consumers across the country, through our distribution channels that we're building up. And I think, as we look at the near future, I think that's going to be the name of the game. So that series we call Rice at Home. Rice at home, it's a saying in West African culture that it's compulsory or mandatory that there always is rice at home.
Christine Dobbyn:
And I guess Rice at Home has a double meaning for you, right?
Ope Amosu:
Absolutely. I'm Rice through and through. So I wear it inside and outside. Absolutely.
Christine Dobbyn:
So right now, if someone would like to explore your product offerings, what would be the best way to go about that?
Ope Amosu:
Yeah. So on our website, which is ChopnBlok, that's spelled C-H-O-P-N-B-L-O-K.co. Chopnblok.co. There's an opportunity to sign up to attend one of our dining experiences. That's actually the list of people that we're prioritizing as we are finalizing our in-home dining experience. So I would highly recommend for those who are interested to sign up on that list. And we don't email blast or anything like that, we really only make meaningful engagements. But that's ultimately the list of folks who are going to have the first opportunity to get some of our products at home.
Christine Dobbyn:
So this time when you've been working from home as an entrepreneur, I know you're married, your wife Janelle, and then you also have a very young daughter. What has that been like? Just trying to manage work, personal, your wife I know just took a new corporate job. Talk about that?
Ope Amosu:
Yeah. I mean, really it's just going all in is the best way to describe it, right? Every single one of those aspects is super important to me, to our family. And so a big part of it is balanced. But I subscribed to
the thought that balance isn't necessarily carving out just equal amounts of time for everything. Balance is about having alignment. And so that's a big thing within our household is having that alignment on how we can prioritize things, how we can tackle things as a unit, and how we can be on the same page as we realize what's important now, and what's going to take the backseat at any given moment.
So it's been a lot. But entrepreneurship is a lot, and it's always going to be a lot. I don't think there's ever going to be a time, regardless of what's going on in this world, where it's just going to be smooth sailing. I think if you're continuously trying to improve, trying to grow, trying to push things to get closer to your aspirations, and your aspirations also continue to move, it's the journey. So as hard as it is, as time consuming as it is, as few hours of sleep as we get we continue to be motivated to push on.
Christine Dobbyn:
I want to go back to your roots, which you've talked some about. Your parents immigrated here, Nigerian roots. You grew up here. And you went off to play football in Minnesota on both an academic and athletic scholarship. Is that right?
Ope Amosu:
Yeah. Yeah. Actually it's in Missouri. I grew up in Houston, played a lot of sports, focused on academics, and ultimately got a scholarship to Truman State University in Northeast Missouri to play football, but also had a full academic scholarship to go along with that. So that's where I met my wife. She's actually from the St. Louis area. So we both met in Missouri. But yeah, being from the Houston area, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country, and then moving to rural Missouri, population like 30,000 people. I remember going on my recruiting visit and I asked the coaches, "Does it snow?" And they told me it didn't. I thought they were being serious. Apparently they were joking. So I had some harsh winters. Started to realize that, man, football isn't as fun in the snow as it once was back in Houston.
But obviously, it forced me to grow up quite a bit, just being that far away from home. And one of the things I did realize upon graduating was that I wanted to get home as quickly as possible. So I was able to get an opportunity with a company that was looking for sales reps to help reinvigorate their Houston branch. And they happened to be searching for folks in Missouri because their headquarters was in Missouri. So it was a ticket to come home. And that's what got me back to the Houston area. Ended up working there for a few years. It was a small business which allowed me to wear a lot of hats, and also gave me some experiences that were able to allow me to put in a good application at Rice. And that's kind of how everything got connected from there.
Christine Dobbyn:
Was business school always on your radar, even when you went away to Missouri to play football, or was that something that sort of evolved over time?
Ope Amosu:
It was on my parents' radar, I'll say that. But I will say, for me, probably my junior year in college and undergrad was when I started thinking about business school. But at that point, I really didn't realize that business school was somewhat different than a lot of other graduate programs where there's value in having some real life experience in that field. So work experience versus just kind of going directly from undergrad. I was fairly young in my class. I had about three years of full-time corporate experience before getting my MBA. And I think a lot of that was intentional in some of the decisions I made in where I went to go work for. That was all factored in on how can I get the experiences that would be able to still help me to get to business school quickly?
Christine Dobbyn:
What are some of your best takeaways from the Rice Business program?
Ope Amosu:
Oh man, I think there's a lot. I saw a lot of value in my cohort, being surrounded by so many different people with so many different walks of life that brought different experiences in the classroom. Really kind of helped me to sharpen the way that I thought about, not only business, but just life in general. But then also, to be honest, it made me think even a bit more highly about what the future could be, or what I could go after just by seeing how talented my peers were and the things that they were looking to tackle in this world. So it gave me a bigger vision, I would say. I'm a pretty ambitious person, but I think that gave me some affirmation and a bigger vision on what impact I wanted to have in this world.
I also think definitely Rice gave me a lot of tangible skills to go make that happen. So we're talking about entrepreneurship, and along with concentrating on entrepreneurship, I concentrate on energy. So there's two things that I wanted to get out of business school was, one, the opportunity to go work in an energy company. Because, given my background, I realized that the world is big, and the geopolitical nature of the energy industry was one thing that was interesting to me. But also given that I'm also not a engineer by background, I figured this is probably the only way I'm going to get in to test out the energy world.
But then entrepreneurship was huge. I remember I was actually in Al Danto's first class that he taught as a professor at Rice. And it was his new enterprise class. And that class blew me away. Just really doing case studies and hearing about people just going after things, and learning the good, the bad, and the ugly from those experiences. And again, it just made things seem much more tangible to me. So I think Rice was a great two years of self-reflection honing in on ambition, building the skill sets to be able to successfully go after whatever it is I wanted to go and try professionally, and position me well for, upon graduation, being able to excel in both my corporate career, but then also to really figure out what I want to do from an entrepreneurship standpoint.
Christine Dobbyn:
You mentioned the action learning project. What is that exactly? And what did you get out of that?
Ope Amosu:
So the action learning project, that's kind of the capstone project that we had to complete the first year of the program, the second semester. And it's really a hands-on structured program to where you're paired with a few of your classmates. You work for a specific project that is tied to one of the businesses that supports the Rice program. So I actually worked in the energy space with Cameron at the time. And basically I think the best way to describe it is they bring you on as consultants to tackle some sort of business problem that is actually meaningful to that company.
One of the things that was really well done, well thought together was how the teams were constructed. So I mentioned that had a lot of different experiences, but I also mentioned I was one of the youngest in my class at the time. So being paired with other classmates who had true consulting experience, or those who have CPAs, those who've worked in other countries, there was a lot for me to pull on. And it was really, I would say, my and many folks first opportunity of applying the classroom aspects of the program to something that's actually tangible, and seeing how everything kind of comes into play. What you really know and what you really don't know starts to shine. So that was what the action learning project was for me, a big reason as to why I was able to succeed in my internship that I took with GE, and ultimately converting that into a full-time opportunity with them upon graduation.
Christine Dobbyn:
When you were at Rice, were you working on the ChopnBlok business plan at that point?
Ope Amosu:
I was not. That's one of the things that Al Danto, who was the professor of the entrepreneurship class, new enterprise, and he's, I guess, one of the pillars of entrepreneurship at Rice now, when he was teaching that class, he made a statement that really stuck with me, right? So I was in the entrepreneurship program. I knew one day I wanted to build something. I didn't know exactly what that was. And he made the comment. He said, "Well, a lot of you guys are going to come out of here and you're going to go take a job. And there's nothing wrong with that. Don't feel that you have to come out of here starting your next business. But if there is a need that you identify, because everything starts with an idea, at least you'll be equipped to know how to approach it. And you'll always have the resources to be able to pull back into within the Rice community to be able to have that support to do so."
And so that really took the pressure off of me in terms of, hey, I have two years of experience in one field. I'm trying to pivot, possibly check out the energy industry, but I know one day I want to be an entrepreneur. I didn't necessarily have the vision for ChopnBlok then, but I did know that one day I did want to work on something that was meaningful to me. And when I think about ChopnBlok, as I kind of peel the layers back and take a step away from it, and just kind of reflect, ChopnBlok, I say this all the time, it's not about me at all. I never want it to be about me, but I do believe that a lot of the principles, the experiences, and just the entire ethos of what ChopnBlok is about is a reflection on what it's taken for me to get to where I am today.
Christine Dobbyn:
As far as your vision, you talk about as you were at Rice Business, not necessarily ready to start a company, but at the point in which you were, do you think all those experiences that played out in your life up to that point led you to the vision you have for it?
Ope Amosu:
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, the good ideas come from really just a need, right? And so with myself, growing up in a West African household in Houston, I had, just like a lot of first generation immigrants, that whole duality complex, right? So we had a set of norms and principles and customs that were appropriate at home. But then, as I stepped out of my door, I also had to realize how to assimilate to the norms and principles and customs that were acceptable in the broader society that I lived in, right? So things that we would do at home wouldn't be the same things that might be... It'd be looked at as different in school, for example, right? And so you navigate life like that. And again, that really is the illustration of the crossroads, right? Someone living in that crossroads.
But the difference was, when I would come home from school, I had all the access to everything that the West African culture provided to me. And that was something that made me as proud of the culture as I am now. And so, as I moved out in further and further from home, the four years I spent in Missouri, then I came back home. Then after grad school, I spent time living in the Northeast, in Philadelphia. From there, I moved to the Middle East and so on, and living in Dubai, and then did projects in other parts of the world. I continued to come back to the self-realization of, man, why can't I get a bowl of jollof rice as easily as I can get a hamburger right now? What I really need in my life right now is jollof rice.
Or the music, seeing how West African culture, like afrobeats music for example, is continuing to be on the upswing. How come I have to kind of really, at that point, kind of go out of my way to find those songs that I would easily find. That plus just understanding from an economic standpoint the migration pattern of West Africans into this country. Knowing that there was a big influx in the early eighties, really had me thinking, well, you know what? Just like myself, all the kids I used to run around with when I was younger, they're probably dealing with the same thing too, as well as our parents and uncles and aunts that paved the way for us. They're still also trying to figure out how to get access to certain things, too.
All of those things made me as proud of the culture as I am. And I'm like, well, the folks who I work with who don't really understand or know, or haven't had as much access to this and don't know what they're missing out on, they'd probably love it if they found out about it too. And so a lot of that is really what started to drive me to say, well, then why doesn't this exist? Seeing other cultures that I felt were good parallels, meaning cultures who also might have smaller immigrant communities, but they're able to tell their story, their narrative, through food made me think, well, if we could do this with West African culture, food is something that would open a lot of people's ears to what it is that we have to say, or give us the opportunity to share the narrative in a way where it makes sense to us. Not one where someone is dictating what our narrative truly is.
And so that's really what paved the way for ChopnBlok was that realization. And one day I was driving on a work trip, and I saw a sign for an Italian street kitchen. And I said, you know what? That's it. That's what we're going to create. We're going to create the first West African inspired food and beverage concept where we can share the beauty of the culture through food because food is going to be a way for us to gain the attention of the masses. And that's how ChopnBlok really came to be really just out of the need, and really out of the realization that I'm probably not the only one that's dealing with this void. So how do we go ahead and close it?
Christine Dobbyn:
Is there some feedback that particularly stands out in your mind from a customer that really touched you, or really made you realize what you had created?
Ope Amosu:
Yeah. I think it comes from different customers at different walks of life, right? So when you asked me that question earlier, who is our customer, I take a lot of pride in when someone of West African descent comes to maybe one of our dining events, or has an opportunity to fellowship with us, and they eat the food and they hear about the stories that we're sharing to kind of educate everyone in that space about our culture and what we're doing and why we're doing it, and what the significance of what you're eating means and how it came to be. And they sit back and they look at it from a perspective of pride. That really fires me up. Because I think a lot of times you hear about, maybe if it's cultures or aspects being "commercialized," and it means it then gets watered down. And I don't necessarily want that to be the case because that's not how I reflect upon my culture. It's not one that's watered down.
So getting feedback that, "Oh my gosh, wow. This actually tastes just like my mother used to make it." Or, "I can't tell my mother, but this tastes better than how she used to make it," that's exciting. But what really gets me is, so in our dining experiences, this is all pre-COVID, it's open seating. You sit wherever you want. And you're probably sitting with, to your left of you is probably the person you came with and to the right of you, and across from you are people that you are meeting for the first time.
And so oftentimes, just because we've been fortunate to have a diverse group of customers, what you would see is we would share the story as food is coming out. But then as I'm doing table touches walking around the dining space, I'm seeing the stories continuing to be told by the West African eater who's sitting at the same table as other people who aren't of that background. And that's really what made me makes me excited. That's one aspect of it. But then the customer base who isn't necessarily coming to our dining experiences thinking that they're familiar with what it is that they're about to be experiencing, I love seeing their faces light up from curiosity, interest, and then satisfaction when they do start to make those connections of, wow, so this is how jambalaya came to be, and this tastes delicious. People will support it, they'll stand behind it. And ultimately, the whole goal is to be able to share the narrative and get them to embrace the culture. And that's what we're seeing take place.
Christine Dobbyn:
Where is ChopnBlok in 10 years?
Ope Amosu:
Oh, that's an excellent question. Hopefully it surpasses my vision. But I think, as ambitious as I am, I tend to have a real structure or way of thinking through things. And I try not to overshoot my aspirations for where this can be in 10 years. So yeah, I think in 10 years, ChopnBlok's going to be more accessible, ChopnBlok is going to be a gateway for folks to share West African dialogue and have it be commonplace in society. Just as Japanese culture is probably very commonplace of folks who've never been there before, but because they've eaten Japanese cuisine, or had omakase or somewhat, it's something they don't think twice about, right? I want West African culture to be like that. And I think ChopnBlok is going to be a gateway for many to be able to see the world through that perspective.
So I think in 10 years, specifically, I think we're going to have products and retail outlets for people to be able to easily grab and take with them. So I have a vision of us being in grocery stores, being places that are close to you. I also see within 10 years, we'll have multiple locations in multiple cities around the country. I see our spaces as spaces where you can have music take place, you can also have great food. You can also walk away with great tangible goods, like books and things such as that of that sort to learn more about the culture. And also to celebrate folks of that background. So yeah, I think in 10 years we'll have products in retail outlets. I think we'll have our own brick and mortar spaces. And I think we'll also be further shaping aspects of pop culture and media overall.
Christine Dobbyn:
If you could give some advice to someone at Rice Business right now, has entrepreneurial aspirations, what would your best advice be?
Ope Amosu:
I would say, shoot your shot and shoot it wisely. So you never make any of the shots that you don't take. So go after it, but also think it through. One of the first people that I told about this idea back in 2017, when it first came to mind was Al Danto. So yeah, I graduated in 2014. I took Al's class in 2013. And he got a phone call from me in 2017 when I had the idea. And I said, "Hey Al, can we go to lunch? I want to run something by you." And his piece of advice to me was, first of all, "Yeah, you can do it," he said, "even though you don't have restaurant experience." Which at that time I told him, I said, "Hey, well, I'm actually going to go get a job at Chipotle and work at nights at Chipotle to learn really what it takes to make this vision happen."
So you got to be willing to roll up your sleeves and humble yourself and get things done because it's only going to serve you in the future. So that's part of doing it wisely, get some experience. But when I told him, I said, "I want to do this." He said, "Well restaurants, yeah, everyone says it's a risky business, and it's hard to make them work. But it's really, if you want to boil it down, it's about maximizing your chicken, right? You got to understand how much your chicken costs. You got to understand how much you can sell your chicken for. You got to realize how much waste you can avoid and how to make the most out of that chicken. And if you can figure those things out, it's just like any other business, right? Your outputs have to exceed your inputs basically."
And I said, "Okay, well if you can put it in that context, yeah, it's doable." He said, "But yes, as doable as it is, don't quit your job though. Do it with your job until you're at a position where you feel that you can break away from your other career and you've given this the opportunity to really become successful." And that's really what the whole, again, the Chopd+Stewd dining series was about, was not quitting our jobs, learning as much as we can from the market, learning more about our concept ourselves by testing things out, and not necessarily also having as much pressure from not having a job and to be able to give us the time to really think this thing through and continue to be intentional about the way that we build it. So if someone is looking for some advice, I think it's definitely go after it. But at the same time as you're going after it, really take the time to understand what is going to be required to make it successful, know your business in and out before you really break away and pursue it full-time.
Christine Dobbyn:
Is there anything else that you would like to add that I haven't asked you about?
Ope Amosu:
Yeah. I think the name. That's one thing I never talk about enough. So a lot of people may see the name ChopnBlok, and you're like, "Okay, okay. I get it, right? ChopnBlok, food. You cut food on a chopping block, things like that, right? It's synonymous with the kitchen. It's a kitchen tool." And so I think the name, I love the name because I think the name really speaks to the story of being that cultural crossroads.
So the one language that's spoken pretty much across all the countries in West Africa, despite there being hundreds of different tribes, is a broken English called pidgin English. So it's spoken in all the English speaking countries in West Africa. And it's kind of like in the Caribbean, they speak Patois. So in that dialect, pidgin English, the word chop means to eat.
So now, if you tell a West African I want chop, or that you hear the word chop, they are already thinking about eating or food. So ChopnBlok is the block or location that you go to to eat. So if you are a West African background, you get that immediately. If you're not a West African background, you get ChopnBlok means synonymous with food immediately as well. And that's really what we want to be in this space is, again, that crossroads where despite your background you see what we're doing, you immediately get it. We put it in a way for you to be able to embrace it. And everyone walks away feeling a bit closer to the culture than maybe they did when they walked in. So that's why we picked the name. That's what it really means. It is some significance behind it. It's not just the kitchen tool.
Christine Dobbyn:
That's great. That's great. Well we thank you so much for joining us on Owl Have You Know.
Ope Amosu:
No, I really appreciate the opportunity, and definitely love hearing the stories on this podcast. And I'm just grateful to have the opportunity to share ours.
Christine Dobbyn:
Well thank you. We look forward to seeing the future successes of ChopnBlok.
Ope Amosu:
Thank you so much.
David Droogleever:
This has been Owl Have You Know. Thanks for listening. You can find links and more information about our guests, posts, and announcements on our website, business.rice.edu. Please subscribe to this podcast wherever you find your favorite podcasts, and leave us a comment while you're at it and let us know what you think. Owl Have You Know is a production of Rice Business, and is sponsored by the Rice Business Alumni Board. The hosts of Owl Have You Know are myself, David Droogleever, and Christine Dobbyn.