Facing unemployment did not drive Thabisile Danisa into a corner, instead, it motivated her to use her skills to get out of her dire situation. And her passion for food encouraged her to specialise in sauces and condiments. As the founder of Incasa Foods, Danisa told Vutivi News that when she started the business in 2015, it was the result of research and a lot of encouragement from her family.
She said that she made her own sauces and started using them to create dishes that her family enjoyed. “I started selling them informally in 2015 and when I saw that the business was supported, I registered it formally in 2017,” Danisa said. The business is based in Durban and has two permanent employees and four contract workers. Danisa also got outside help. She was the beneficiary of the South African Breweries (SAB) Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Programme in 2019, which provides entrepreneurs with business support, seed funding and access to markets.
She also received funding from the Agribusiness Development Agency in Pietermaritzburg, and she was a beneficiary of the government’s Operation Vula Fund. This, she said, helped her establish her business in a sector that was fraught with many challenges. “One of the biggest challenges we face in the agro-processing sector is equipment capacity,” she said. “When you approach a business to supply it with your product, they want to know if you have the capacity to supply at a large scale,” Danisa said.
“However, we were able to overcome many of these obstacles, and today we supply Oxford stores in Hillcrest, Durban and Chohan Spice stores as well.” Danisa also said that another challenge for many businesses in the sector was certification. Even though her natural sauces are approved by the SA National Halaal Association, she still finds it tremendously difficult to get a certificate to supply certain businesses. “Many of the shops we supply are Muslim-owned, so they are very strict and can only accept food products that are halaal,” she said.
“This presents its own set of challenges because it means that even when I purchase raw materials, I can only acquire them from halaal-certified suppliers, and this is challenging because sometimes the food prices go up and I cannot source from local producers which sell at a lower price.”
However, Danisa said the support that she had received from the government and the private sector had resulted in her starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. She was identified by Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal through the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business to showcase her products at the Sial Paris International Food Products Exhibition, which will take place in France from 15 to 19 October.