From a curry to tasty suc­cess

Ex-teacher’s Richards Bay start-up now em­ploys more than 135


A START-UP Richards Bay ca­ter­ing com­pany has set its eyes on big­ger tar­gets – which in­cludes in­ter­na­tional sports events and other events that draw big­ger crowds.

Simiso In­vest­ments owner Mamiza Makhathini says her com­pany is a step closer to pulling off this feat. She says they have ex­per­i­mented with on-day and prepre­pared foods to en­sure that they serve food to or­der for the crowds.

She says Simiso wants to be known for qual­ity and good ser­vice to its clients.

“Cur­rently, with the as­sis­tance of SEDA, we went through cer­tain au­dits, which we passed. Now we await ex­perts from the Nether­lands to check our fa­cil­ity and take us through this process of re­al­is­ing this dream,” she says. “This ex­cites me so much.”

Makhathini, who is orig­i­nally from Mthun­zini, is a qual­i­fied teacher who was al­most med­i­cally boarded be­cause of a voice fail­ure.

The prospect of be­ing boarded prompted her res­ig­na­tion from teach­ing to ex­plore a busi­ness that she had been run­ning in her leisure time. Her break­through came in 2006, when she cooked curry for the pro­vin­cial trea­sury de­part­ment.

She said there was a re­quest to meet the per­son be­hind the dish.

“She (the of­fi­cial) ad­vised me to sub­mit a quo­ta­tion, which led to my first job, where I catered for 150 peo­ple at a de­part­ment event held in the Umh­lathuze mu­nic­i­pal of­fices.”

This event drew many peo­ple, and in­cluded sev­eral lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­ity of­fi­cials. An­other mu­nic­i­pal­ity of­fi­cial re­quested food sam­ples, which led to her be­ing called in, in­ter­viewed and sub­se­quently of­fered a con­tract to cook for coun­cil­lors.

Makhathini says that land­ing the jobs made her the first black African to be part of ca­ter­ing ser­vice providers who cooked for the city’s coun­cil­lors in that pre-pro­cure­ment era.

She says it also led to Simiso be­com­ing the first black ca­ter­ing ser­vice providers for var­i­ous com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing, among oth­ers, Foskor, Sappi in Man­deni and Stanger, Richards Bay Coal Ter­mi­nal, Gled­how Sugar Mills and Mfolozi Sugar Mills. Even though Makhathini never went to a culi­nary school, her pas­sion to ex­plore dif­fer­ent foods and cook­ing styles served her well. But the growth of the com­pany meant that she needed to hire pro­fes­sional chefs. She says her job now is to su­per­vise and make sure they cater to chang­ing tastes.

Makhathini says Simiso de­vel­oped its unique recipes from all the client or­der spec­i­fi­ca­tions they have re­ceived, rang­ing from Western, Eastern, Moroc­can dishes and Kwazulu-na­tal tra­di­tional foods.

She says the jour­ney has had its chal­lenges, as she had to con­tend, like many small busi­nesses, with lack of fund­ing and loan sharks to keep go­ing. She man­aged, how­ever, and to­day the busi­ness em­ploys more than 135 staff. “The growth of the busi­ness has been very in­or­ganic

– in that it grew so fast I could not man­age it,” she said. “Hav­ing been a teacher, hav­ing to go into busi­ness was some­thing else al­to­gether.”

She has also im­proved on her busi­ness man­age­ment skills, en­rolling for a 3-year in­cu­ba­tion pro­gramme with min­ing and met­als com­pany South32.

“The pro­gramme taught the req­ui­site skills, like not hav­ing to take any­thing and ev­ery­thing that came my way. They taught me to do cor­rect cost­ing, so that I could have money re­main­ing to grow fur­ther.”

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