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Starting small leads to Mnisi bakery becoming big operation

Former corporate worker finds joy in village business

King’s Bakery owner Nhlamulo Mnisi.
King’s Bakery owner Nhlamulo Mnisi.
Image: VUKUZENZELE

An idea to sell bread and confectionery in her community, and the courage to test the market, turned business analyst Nhlamulo Mnisi, 34, into a successful entrepreneur. 

One day at home in Mphakani village near Giyani in Limpopo, Mnisi noticed an Albany bakery truck delivering bread.

“On investigating, I realised there was a need to produce fresh bread, at an affordable price, suitable for the community that raised me. The response was phenomenal. I never imagined I could produce something that people would buy.

“When my product was well-received by customers and the community, it was clear that I needed to expand production and buy more equipment,” says Mnisi, who always dreamt of opening her own business.

She opened King’s Bakery in the heart of her community in Dzumeri in October 2019.

“The bakery is ideally located for customers commuting to work, school and town. We produce freshly made white, brown and yellow bread and confectionery, including fat cakes, scones and biscuits.

“We are the only bakery around, which gives us the advantage of being early and getting local support,” she says.

Mnisi self-funded her start-up bakery. “I maxed my savings and credit cards to buy second-hand equipment and a delivery vehicle. I bought a fully functional bakery, built inside a shipping container.”

While still operating from the shipping container, the bakery is moving to bigger premises. “Our business is growing and the container cannot accommodate more equipment,” Mnisi explains.

Dzumeri has 18 villages and about 300 shops. “I went door-to-door to every shop and quickly realised I was only accessing 10% of the market,” says Mnisi, explaining that funding was her biggest challenge.

“I spoke to business people and heard about government programmes that assist small businesses… I searched for funding agencies and came across the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA),” she says.

After completing the NYDA’s week-long business management training course, she was able to apply for funding.

“After a site inspection, I received a R100,000 grant. I used 50% to purchase stock, such as flour and the other ingredients for producing bread; and 50% to buy equipment, including a moulding and cutting machine for our confectionery products.

“The money was paid directly to my suppliers. This is a perfect strategy, as money goes into growing the business,” says Mnisi.

The bakery, which now employs five people, supplies 30 shops with an average of 40 to 60 loaves daily.

“The plan is to reach all 300 shops in the coming year. We also offer catering for functions and events, and have started to reach out to hospitals, schools and correction centres. I also plan to open coffee shops in nearby towns, where we will sell our goods,” says Mnisi.

The former business analyst with a BCom degree in economics and econometrics from the University of Johannesburg, encourages entrepreneurs to start small.

“Starting small was beneficial for me. I learnt the fundamentals of business, didn’t drown or give up, and learnt to manage, adapt and grow,” she says.

-This article was originally published in GCIS's Vuk'uzenzele

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