Local Village Foods

- Sipamandla Manqele

START-UP COSTS: ‘Initially, I invested less than R6 000. We’ve been fortunate to have been part of incubation programmes that included some funding, and to have won various start-up competitio­ns.’

TURNOVER: ‘From our first year of trading we saw more than 100% annual growth, with the exception of the past two years, during which the business grew by about 60%.’

Inspired by the rich diversity of foods available on the African continent, Sipamandla Manqele has created a unique and accessible range of health foods featuring indigenous African ingredient­s.

Local Village Foods started trading in 2016. Tell us how it came about.

My business journey has been long and colourful! Local Village Foods started out selling freshly slaughtere­d chickens. I’d found a farmer in Mpumalanga who supplied these hard-bodied chickens that we grew up eating in Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape. I started selling them to a few friends, then to a restaurant in the city. Then I added things like free-range eggs from small-scale producers. At one point I was also

making granola in my kitchen. I changed our business model to focus on what Local Village Foods is known for today.

I’ve always been very business-minded, a trait I picked up from my mom. I registered my first business while I was in high school – a friend and I had a plan to manufactur­e toilet paper. The business didn’t succeed, but it gave me my first taste of entreprene­urship.

What sparked the idea for Local Village Foods?

I read books by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Chinua Achebe, who wrote about eating things like yams and pepe. I hadn’t really been exposed to produce from other African countries. I began exploring African cuisine everywhere I travelled. The dishes were so rich and flavourful. African ingredient­s are seldom featured on the global banquet table. That’s how I got the idea: I wanted African wholefoods and superfoods to be as recognisab­le as every other type of cuisine.

What are some of the ingredient­s you use?

We source ingredient­s from smallscale producers all over Africa. Tiger nuts, which are in fact not nuts but tubers and are known to have been eaten in Ancient Egypt, are used for plant-based milk and as flour to make crunchy treats. Indigenous grains such as sorghum, fonio and teff can be enjoyed in savoury dishes or as porridge. We have developed a local version of bissap, which could be described as an ice tea made with hibiscus leaves. Our snack bars contain baobab powder, amaranth and moringa powder; and ancient African crops are used in our new tinned-food range.

What do you hope consumers take away from your brand?

We want consumers to experience the heart of our brand, which is simple really: making African wholefoods accessible, convenient and delicious. I hope people will start recognisin­g the diversity and importance of African foods, and hopefully the narrative that African food is unhealthy will change. We want to introduce and reintroduc­e people to grain from Ethiopia and Benin, beans from Mali, and superfoods from Malawi and South Africa. We hope to achieve this by collaborat­ing with various smallscale farmers who are growing these crops in different communitie­s.

What has been your greatest reward so far?

Entreprene­urship is really miraculous. When you start a business, all you have is a dream and your imaginatio­n. Five or six years down the line, when you see how your portfolio has grown and how you’ve grown as a person… There is no greater reward than that feeling.

Your online store also features a blog. Why was it important to include that?

We wanted to create a resource for our customers to get to know the brand and understand our thinking and philosophy as an organisati­on, but also to inform them about how they can use these ingredient­s in their homes. We have recipes for tiger-nut rusks, roselle lollies, pasta dishes and salads, among others. ❖

‘I began exploring African cuisine everywhere I travelled.’

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 ?? ?? Sipamandla Manqele hopes to break barriers by showcasing African ingredient­s.
Sipamandla Manqele hopes to break barriers by showcasing African ingredient­s.
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