Spinach, a desire to prove himself and a sincerely caring attitude have catapulted Lufefe Nomjana’s and his spinach-based bakery into a proud business that has started to supply a local chain store.
And, while Lufefe’s dream may be built on the realization that he has something more to offer his community and a passion to make a difference, it is pure hard work that has turned this young entrepreneur into a successful businessman.
He grew up in humble circumstances in the Eastern Cape and left school at age 17 to come to Cape Town to find work and help support his mother and little brothers.
“I was living on my own in a shack in Cape Town and I somehow got pulled into a life of drinking and criminal activity. I was studying, but failed Grade 11. As a role model and team leader amongst my friends, I soon realized that I would have to change my ways if I wanted to escape my old life and be a success.
“My mom came to Cape Town to live here and I repeated and passed Grade 11. In the back of my mind I had a realization and a goal for improving my life, but I didn’t yet know how I was going to do it.”
Lufefe says he eventually obtained his matric certificate and started working for a clothing company, where he managed to buy and sell clothes on the side; and then for an insurance company where he gained experience in how to deal with customers and sell products.
“One day I thought I’d volunteer to do some work in a local community garden where spinach was planted, and this really had me thinking about the possibility of how spinach – as a health food – could be incorporated into daily consumed products.”
As someone who lived and worked in Khayelitsha, Lufefe understood the challenges relating to a healthy lifestyle and healthy eating in a township. “I went online to learn about baking and about ingredients, as I had no knowledge of this. And so I developed a recipe which included spinach in bread and started to sell my products under the name Espinaca Express Bakery.”
He recalls that, in the early days of his business, he got up at the crack of dawn each day to mix ingredients and knead bread in a bucket in his shack before taking it all to a neighbour’s oven at 3am where he baked until 6am to sell into the local market.
“But my vision was bigger than the shack I lived in, and I realized that conditions were not conducive to a food outlet. I soon realized I needed resources.” With the help of funding from a local bank, Lufefe – now known as the Spinach King in Khayelitsha – was able to purchase a container and set up a proper bakery.
As he started to market and sell his product, he put great effort into educating the local community about the benefits of healthy living and healthy eating.
“Our deliveries are made by bicycle to reinforce the message of a healthy lifestyle and I think that people are beginning to understand my products, whereas before many people would have thought that healthy food must be more expensive and probably not for them.”
Today Espinaca bread sold in a large Khayelitsha retailer are competing well with other products, says Lufefe.
“For me it’s not so much about the money, but to implement my plan and to see my products baked, sold and enjoyed. My dream remains to impact my community and to improve people’s lives through healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle.”
Espinaca Innovations has recently opened a new restaurant/café at a Khayelitsha mall where they will be selling more than just the known delicious muffins and spinach bread. Lufefe has expanded his menu by adding new healthy products made of spinach, such as wraps, smoothies, biscuits, spinach soup and many more.
“The company is growing tremendously and the new developments are very exciting. I have recruited five unemployed graduates to join the innovation team and to practise their separate disciplines or fields of study. We will soon open another branch in Stellenbosch and life is full of possibilities,” concludes Lufefe.
Now, if that doesn’t tick the boxes of successful entrepreneurship …!