MEET RAFIQ TIKLAY: The Burger Boss.

Rafiq Ticklay is one of the most “swooned” after bachelors in Lusaka. Known for his love for cars, great swag, and his alluring beard, he has a charm that is unmatched. But the 28-year-old is more than that, over the last 5years he has cemented himself as one of the most respectable businessmen and entrepreneurs in Zambia, under 30.

Born in Zambia, Rafiq lived and went to school here until the age of 12 when he moved to England; where he would complete his lower education. After graduating High School, Rafiq attended Bedfordshire University to pursue a degree in Business Management; which he did not complete, opting to drop out halfway through his programme.

“I’m not an avid believer of formal education,” Rafiq opens. We sat outside the 28-year-old’s Burger Boss restaurant and his newly opened restaurant SUBZ, just next door, to begin our dialogue. “I just think the whole concept of formal education is pretty outdated in today’s world. If you’re an entrepreneur, Uni is the worst place to be. I’m not saying it’s not important, but if you’re a true entrepreneur, Grade 12 is more than enough. You’re going to sit in Uni for four or five years, for what? Unless you plan on working for someone it doesn’t make sense. However, if you want to be an entrepreneur… start early,” He tells me.

Rafiq believes that dabbling in as many creative ventures as possible while you’re still young, is more useful in today’s world. Especially in things of the creative nature: Music, Writing, and Art. A belief I found we both share, among others.

After Rafiq dropped out of Uni, he moved back to Zambia in 2015 and he started a noodle company called ‘Ma Noodle’ which failed miserably due to the dollar crisis at the time. After that he started to do Software Engineering on newer model luxury vehicles like Range Rover, Mercedes, Jeep, and Jaguar, to name a few. Recalibrating and recoding vehicles for companies like Southern Cross, Pilatus, Alliance Motors and Toyota.

I asked him how he found himself doing Software Engineering, something entirely left field from Business Management, “My dorm-mate in the UK, his dad owns one of the largest firms that do that work. When I moved here, I spotted a gap in the market for that kind of thing and decided to learn how to do it. I couldn’t afford to fly back and forth to the UK so I asked my friend to teach me via TeamViewer. As it later turned out, I happened to be one of, if not the only one that was doing that kind of work here. It’s super niche, somewhat complex. But once you learn the key basics you pretty much grasp It.” he shared.

The business proved lucrative, and after amassing some savings, Rafiq began to contemplate his next move. “You can make money, but if you’re not going to put it in the right place, you end up spending it, and it disappears into thin air. 6 months later what you made in over a year is gone, just like that. So I started to think of which industry was more resistant to a bad economy. And I thought ‘food!’ I love food, and people have to eat, so that’s how come I decided to open an eatery called Burger Boss. It sounds boring, I know,” He says, chuckling. “Even though I love food, it was more of a business decision first; the two worlds have to work together. The business side and the ‘what do you love side.’ I’ve always believed in bridging those two in order to be successful. What you love and what you do.”

“What does it cost, to run your own business?” I asked, “Everything mudala. It cost’s everything,” He replied. “Running a business is not easy. Every single day something goes wrong. That’s the ugly side of business most people don’t see, but the struggle is worth it because it’s yours. When I opened Burger Boss, it was a colossal disaster due to inexperience. I had just come from working on cars to doing food. The two are complete opposites. We got bullied a lot on social media, but we listened and we learned. I think it’s a lie when people tell you they have it all figured it. Nobody has it all figured out in life, you need to be brave and have a sense of direction. Be okay with being fluid and figuring it out as you go. But that’s just me” Rafiq further adds.

Initially, Rafiq wanted to open a confectionary store as his next endeavor following Burger Boss. After going back to the drawing board and doing the mathematics, he realized his initial idea wouldn’t work, and decided to open SUBZ instead; Lusaka’s newest and most happening submarine sandwich restaurant, currently. “I wanted to do doughnuts, cakes, and éclairs. But after much thought and calculation, it didn’t seem feasible. I ended up deciding on doing something in food that’s takeaway price, but healthier. That’s how I decided to do SUBZ. Overnight my entire plan changed.” He shares, laughing.

Some last words from Rafiq for anyone wanting to be an entrepreneur, “Be brave and go after what you want. Be prepared to sacrifice 2–3 years of your life developing yourself and your business. It’s a small price to pay when building a foundation for a lifetime.”

When Rafiq is not busy at work on cars, his two restaurants, or contemplating his next move; He is usually spending time with his parents over lunch or taking his dirt bike out for a spin.

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Samm Tembo

Samm Tembo

I’m a Zambian freelance writer, content creator, minimalism enthusiast, and essentialist; sharing parts of myself and my human experience through storytelling.