By: Sizakele Nduli
The innovative CEO and founder of Cosmo Dumpling Restaurant and Bakery says the recipe for her business’ success was finding a niche in the market. Petunia Thebe, who is based in Cosmo City, west of Johannesburg, established her business in 2017. At the beginning of 2018, she received R29,000 in funding from the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller (GEP) to grow her business further. The funding injection not only showcased the potential of Thebe’s unique dumpling creations but also allowed her to expand her team, providing employment opportunities for nine people.
Thebe told Vutivi News that she needed to think outside the box. “You can get any bakery product in every retail store, even in any confectionary, but you will never find dumplings. That’s when I became even more interested in filling the gap. Dumplings is one of the staple foods in most households and is our main heritage food which I feel is not celebrated enough,” she said.
Thebe admitted that she did not conduct any prior research, but instead boldly pursued the idea of making dumplings, locally known as dombolo, readily available. To her delight, the concept resonated with people who enthusiastically embraced and supported her venture. “I started approaching restaurants to become their dumpling supplier. Some opened their doors. The likes of The Harv Table by Leko Madlala in Morningside and Blaque Bistro in Bryanston definitely welcomed me.”
When asked what inspired her to start the business, she said: “I love cooking, so it came so easy because I was and still am doing something so close to my heart.” “I started from humble beginnings. Passion, consistency and resilience kept us afloat. We made mistakes, but we learnt a lot. I can say giving up was never an option,” Thebe said. Cosmo Dumplings supplies caterers, chefs, restaurants, hotels, and event organisers. It takes pride in offering a diverse range of dumplings to cater to every customer’s preferences.
From classic plain dumplings to more unique options like carrot, parsley, whole-wheat, sweetcorn, and olive-flavored dumplings, it also provides gluten-free options for those with dietary restrictions. Thebe recently opened a bakery and restaurant in Cosmo City that offers an African cuisine menu paired with dumplings, samp, or pap as a starch. They also sell dumpling burgers and muffins. The 44-year-old self-taught baker told Vutivi News that she was currently looking into how to extend the expiration date for her products. “Our biggest challenge currently is the shelf life, although we are trying. We are struggling to get the right preservatives that can stretch the shelf life. But we will get it right one day. The only way to preserve them is to freeze them,” Thebe said. Thebe also sells her dumplings via social media and her website.