By: Tebgo Mokwena
Mandlenkosi Bill is a second-generation baker, who learned from his mother that the success of a bakery lies in the quality of its products. His mother also taught him the ins and outs of the trade, which helped him start his business, Isonka, in Despatch in the Eastern Cape last year. “I started the business because I saw it necessary to share the skills my mother imparted onto me as a child with the community,” he told Vutivi News.
“When I was young I used to watch and assist my mother with her bakery business and that is when I fell in love with baking. She taught me that being artistic while baking is very important, as well as being in a good place emotionally and mentally. “I see it myself with how the baking community is filled with energy, love, laughter, and a connection through the shared love of baking.”
Isonka bakes golden sweet raisin bread, which is sold to spaza shops in Despatch. Bill also regularly goes on trips to surrounding communities to introduce his bread to the locals. Bill, who currently employs three people, said he started the business from his own pocket. “I started it from the money I made as a part-time worker,” he said. But now he needs to find a bigger space for his bakery and better equipment as demand for his bread is growing.
Bill told Vutivi News that while he was happy that his business was doing well, it was not easy running it by himself. “I teach my employees how to bake, and I also manage the business and I am my own accountant on top of having to organise everything, including the tours we go on,” he said. “It clashes with my personal life because I find that I have to be too focused and have no time to myself.”
Bill said that the bakery got off to a good start because he invested in branding and marketing. However, success ultimately starts in the kitchen. “If one wants to be a successful baker, one must work on their product and improve it, focus on branding and marketing, and wait for feedback from the people in the form of foot traffic,” Bill said. “If people do not come, it means that you have an opportunity to improve some aspect of your business.” And by introducing his bread to people during his tours, Bill plans on selling more of his bread in other parts of the province this year and hopes to open shops across the country in a few years’ time.