Township spinach bread business thriving

Owner of Espinaca Innovation business, Lufefe Nomjana and Virgin Active managing director, Ross Faragher-Thomas were both thirlled about the launch of the second green bakery.

Social entrepreneur, Lufefe Nomjana, who started his Espinaca Innovation business with just R40 capital, using a neighbour’s oven to bake his first spinach bread, was beaming with pride on Friday November 25, when he officially opened his second green bakery.

The green bakery, which operates from a shipping container at the busy Khayelitsha Mall, next to the train station, is partly funded by Virgin Active.

Mr Nomjana, who is popularly known in Khayelitsha as the “Spinach king”, started his business in 2011 baking only three loaves a day, and using one loaf as a testing sample. He went door to door selling his bread, and every morning he would stand next to the train station encouraging people to try his bread.

The 28-year-old father of one said selling spinach bread to a community used to brown and white bread had been a massive challenge. However, the driving force behind his spinach bread idea was that people in the township did not realise the importance of eating healthily.

He believed that people had the misconception that healthy eating was expensive and made a pact with himself to change that myth.

He told Vukani that he was grateful when he was offered an opportunity in 2012 to study a business course in cooking and baking for six months at the Raymond Ackerman Academy of Entrepreneurial Development, funded by Pick * Pay. The retailer also donated a stove to his business.

Soon demand for his bread started growing and he could no longer use his neighbour’s oven. So, he asked another retailer, Spar, at the mall to allow him to use their ovens.

He was over the moon when the store opted to allocate a shelf in the store for his bread and furthemore sold his product at their store-at no cost to him-for one year. Through the retailer’s assistance, he said, he managed to make a profit, and in 2014 he bought himself a shipping container, converted it into a bakery, and officially launched his business. Asked about what went into his bread, he said it took him more than a year to develop the right recipe, which incorporates brown sugar or honey instead of white sugar, and pea or soy flour instead of wheat flour, thereby reducing the carbohydrate content in the bread. When distribution of his product became difficult, he brought five bicycles to get around in the community and distribute his bread to customers.

“I read a book which said look around you, you already have all the resources you need. I looked around and I saw a bunch of spinach and thought: why can’t I make a bread out of spinach?

“I urge budding business people to first identify resources they have at their disposal and figure out how can they use them,” he said.

He believes that his story is proof that entrepreneurs do not need to have a lot of money to start their business, but the idea to work around with what they have.

Virgin Active managing director, Ross Faragher-Thomas, said they wanted to offer skills and funding to budding business owners to grow their businesses. He said some of the challenges they identified included the distribution of the product and business sustainability.

He said they were delighted that Mr Nomjana did not only want to make profits, but also wanted to encourage his customers to take care of their health.