ESPINNACHEA INNOVATIONS – South Africa
FOUNDER (S) Lufefe Nomjana
BACKGROUND OF FOUNDER
Lufefe had a difficult childhood, and was separated from his mother due to her inability to support the family. He states, “At 13, I began working at a supermarket and earned R20 for my family. My eldest brother hustled as well and we supported each other as family members. My aunt lived close to us so she would help us as well from time to time.”
“Growing up, I never believed in doing things for myself. My motivation was to help others. We lived in a shack and had to work in order to survive. My mother tried her best raising us and today she is my role-model. My brothers and I are who we are because of her. She was both mother and father to us and she always made sure we were on track, like the way she handled our initiation ceremonies: she arranged everything – a role the father normally takes. She was like that in every part of our lives.”
INSPIRATION TO START THE BUSINESS
After starting various small business activities that did not do well, he remembers going to the library and reading many books and a line from one of them resonated with him: “success comes and is inevitable when you assist others.” So that’s what he did. He looked around his community and identified a need.
He began volunteering in a community garden, which is where his love for vegetables began and when he became a vegetarian. Having had previous sales experience selling clothes door to door, he repeated the same strategy for the vegetable garden and it started generating more money.
Lufefe then started volunteering at a community clinic, where he learned unhealthy eating was a big problem in his community. He worked closely with a dietician. His job was to take eating plans from the dietician to the patient and explain it in the local language.
In the evenings, Lufefe remembers sitting alone in his shack, asking himself what he should do next. One night, he was going through this process when another sentence he read in another book came to mind: look around you; you already have all the resources you need.
He looked around and saw a bunch of spinach. He had previously read how healthy spinach was because of its high nutrient content. The dietician’s talks around bread also popped into his mind; adding one plus one, he developed the idea to bake spinach bread.
DESCRIPTION OF BUSINESS
It took Lufefe more than a year to develop the spinach bread recipe he was happy with. A low-GI spinach bread where, instead of using white sugar he used brown sugar or honey, and substituted flour with pea or soya flour – which gave a reduced carbohydrate content.”
The demand for the bread grew in the community and Lufefe couldn’t cope just using his neighbor’s kitchen any longer. So he decided to approach a local bakery to use their ovens. Lufefe says “the bakery let me use their ovens, gave me a shelf, and let me sell the bread in their store, rent-free for the next year. I soon accumulated money and bought a container and ovens to officially start my own business.”
Espinnachea Innovations now produces over 200 loaves of bread, as well as spinach muffins, spinach pizza bases, rusks and spinach juice – all from a container converted into a bakery in Khayelitsha. The company currently employees 12 people and the bakery supplies various bakeries and hotels.
Lufefe faced difficulty in raising funds to launch his business. After rejections from everyone he approached about investing in his business, he decided to start his own bakery, Espinnachea Innovations, selling spinach-based goods.
In 2014, the 28-year-old entrepreneur won an award that included R90 000, which he used to create a storefront bakery, built from a shipping container. Lufefe has raised money through the Thundafund crowdfunding platform.
When Lufefe started, it wasn’t all about building up his profits – he wanted to educate people about healthy eating and the benefits of including spinach in a diet. Initially, he struggled a bit – the business side of what he was doing was difficult to manage, but a five-month entrepreneurial course helped Lufefe realized that he could build a business and help educate his community about healthy eating habits. It has been said that Espinnachea Innovations, is starting a health revolution in Cape Town’s townships.
POTENTIAL FOR SCALE UP
Lufefe has launched a second café and bakery in Khayelitsha Mall, with plans to open a factory as well. With the assistance of Cornell University in America, he has developed Spinach Chips, which will be released soon.