Young Cape Town based entrepreneur Lufefe Nomjana has built an empire from vegetables. He has turned spinach into one incredible success story making him one of the first people in the world to make a huge fortune from the versatile vegetable. His company, Espinaca (Spanish for spinach) Innovations, turns out more than R250 000 a month, employs more than 15 people and has franchised his business model to the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Vegetables are less in demand
Vegetables are often regarded by nutritionists and doctors as the ultimate healthy punch needed by the body. Despite this maverick notion, vegetables are often less in demand belittling their monetary generation.
”I approached a group of women from my community who were growing who ran a vegetable garden primarily for their own use and sold surplus. I started taking the vegetables and selling them from house to house earning myself a commission and being paid by the group of women. Every time they gave me vegetables to take home, there would always be a bunch of spinach. This inspired me to study the vegetable further and know more about its nutritional value. The beauty about spinach is that if you plant it today, you get to harvest it within four weeks,” he said. Lufefe then researched on the internet about making spinach bread before pitching the idea to many people but no one believed it could become a sustainable business.
The strategy and subsequent turnaround
But for young entrepreneur Lufefe Nomjana, a flash of inspiration convinced him to embark on an unthreaded journey. The 28 year old South African businessman from one of Cape Town’s most impoverished township of Khayelitsha had an unshakable idea of starting a bakery.
He had a belief that spinach would be a healthy option if he baked bread with it. As poor as a church mouse, he did not have an oven at that time and persuaded his neighbor to allow him to try out his new magic using hers. That was way back in 2011 and today Lufefe grows spinach and makes bread, muffins, juice, biscuits, smoothies, iced tea, pasta, and even a sauce.
The takeoff of the bakery business
Determined to carve a success story from spinach bread, Lufefe started with just four loaves. He sold three and used the other one for tasting and devising new ways of improving the recipe.
“The beginning was really difficult because people were used to white and brown bread so I had to educate them about this new type of bread. This meant that I went to every house and introduced myself and my business which became a very tiring marketing exercise. But in the end it all paid off because after about four months, demand exceeded supply…”
Making profits and expanding
With a carrot of wealth dangling right in front of him, Lufefe approached a big local retailer and asked to bake with them. They agreed enabling him to bake more than 100 loaves of spinach bread every day. His business boomed and he took the opportunity to introduce spinach muffins as well. The idea of expanding lingered into his head and the ever resourceful Lufefe took the giant leap forward. He hired few staff offering them some commission per unit sold. The rest, as the wise always say, is history!
In 2014, Lufefe won the South African Breweries Innovation Award pocketing R90 000 which he used to buy baking equipment and an empty ship container where he bakes up to 300 loaves per day. He now owns a cafe, bakery and restaurant in Cape Town through a sponsorship deal. Lufefe has indeed crafted a uniquely South Africa success story which proves that a dream and action can take anyone further.
“I have a franchise which is currently being built in the United States. Another is going up in Mexico and another one in Canada,” he proudly divulged.
Author: Farai Diza // Photo: Lufefe Nomjana © Espinaca