Pandora Opens Up

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Ms. Pandora Hodge1.jpg

Pandora Hodge, an inspired Liberian female entrepreneur with a strong business mind and some tasty fingers, is an interesting one to watch and learn from this year.
On September 18, Pandora opened her dream business, a locally-run bar and restaurant which, she says, she has spent eight hard working years to achieve in memory of her mother’s cooking.
A venture which started as Pandora’s Basket, became a weekly buffet set up in the living room of her 11th Street apartment for people to come and pay to eat.
Pandora, who has an incredible ability with flavours and spices, says it took her creativity, hard work, determination, supportive friends, family and supporters to make this dream come true. Her love for cooking helped her start her own catering business at a small scale until her business grew.
“It took me eight years of waking up in the morning and staying up late to get this. For the past seven years I’ve been trying to start this business. I started at a very young age cooking. The idea came about from enjoying the way my mom used to prepare food and the aroma of cinnamon that lingered in her house every morning. Those were my happiest moments,” she recalls.
One unique thing about Pandora’s chef skills is that she created her own recipes using local fresh ingredients throughout the years.
A vibrant woman who enjoys being a mother, Pandora is also the project coordinator for Kriterion Monrovia, an NGO that helps Liberian youth translate their creative ideas into film.
William Reide Dennis, Project Coordinator at Business Start up Center (BSC) Monrovia, says he is proud to see Pandora’s passion become a reality for her. He also said that Pandora signifies the objective of BSC.
“It is a fantastic idea that Pandora’s Basket is now open. BSC is here to support small and medium businesses in Liberia. Pandora is one of our beneficiaries because she attended a lot of business skills trainings and business development services at our organization. We took her to a lot of other countries to meet entrepreneurs and I’m very happy to see this come to pass,” he added.
“This serves as an inspiration to other entrepreneurs. I’ll invite her to my program to talk about her restaurant and other things and will continue to provide our support in terms of coaching and financial support on the things she might need for the restaurant,” he said.
Monrovia is the home to many expatriates and recently-returned Liberians, providing diverse palates that are no doubt, for her, a delightful challenge to cater to. According to a press release from Pandora’s team, she has been able to gather a range of dishes adapted to her diverse clientele.
Prior to the opening of her bar and restaurant, Pandora organized a weekly pop-up restaurant at her residence. Every Thursday, a buffet was served offering a wide range of tastes including her special Pumpkin cream soup and peanut butter soup. These are main dishes that can be found on her menu at Pandora’s Basket.
“I started cooking after the war to help put myself in school and to help my brothers and sisters. I have experience. At Pandora’s Basket, we make vegetarian meals for those who don’t eat meat. We don’t use too much oil or fat when cooking. We prepare food in a healthy way for people from different backgrounds so they can enjoy our food,” she added.
Pandora’s daily dose of food prepared with soul and care will continue to help transform the eating habits of thousands in years to come. Presently, Pandora’s Basket offers breakfast, lunch and dinner at a reasonable price for the Liberian setting.
“My menu is typical Liberian, and also Liberian prices. We’re working with local farmers, promoting them by purchasing their fresh fruits and veggies. A lot of NGO people come to eat because I add a twist to my food, the way internationals would like. I give them exactly what they order for,” she shared.
Meanwhile, Pandora’s Basket is not only about good food. One of its core principals is to promote and support local initiatives, community involvement, and especially youth employment and entrepreneurship.
The Pandora’s Basket team helps groups of young motivated people, who wish to learn new skills, gain work experience and develop themselves and their country.
Pandora has hopes for her restaurant and also her students at the Kriterion Monrovia. Quite recently she visited Greece and the Netherlands, where she says she was able to find out more ingredients, add her spice list up and also make contact with the Kriterion branch there.
“Trying to start partnership and have a student exchange program and some of the Kriterion people will come in January while some of our students will go there later on.
“I have four business partners who have been working with me, and they enjoy the working relationship and know how to do this business very well. I know it will work because I believe in them and trust them. Apart from helping myself, I like to help young inspiring people,” she added.

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