Happiness Makhalemele has realised her long-time dream of having her product steamed bread, also known as dombolo, on the shelves of a leading retailer.
Makhalemele supplies four Spar supermarkets in Johannesburg – Broadacres, Hobart, Ferndale and Crowthorne with fresh dombolo every day.
Vutivi News visited Makhalemele at her restaurant in East Bank in Alexandra, just outside Sandton, where she has converted her old home into a working space and an eatery.
Her passion for cooking started in a tiny flat in one of the roughest areas of Alexandra popularly known as Gomora.
Spotting an opportunity, she quit her day job as a clerk at the Boksburg Traffic Department and followed her dream to sell cooked Mogodu (tripe) in Alex on a street corner.
Her “Mogodu Mondays” became so popular that she bought herself a home in East Bank, an upmarket part of the township.
Asked how she managed to break into the retail market, Makhalemele said her journey has been long and riddled with obstacles.
“I’ve had many doors closed in my face and had to kiss a lot of frogs to end up where I am today.”
Her first opportunity came from supplying JJ’s Butcher in Lyndhurst with dumplings.
“That’s the guy who gave me my first break by selling my dumplings. And then one day someone saw them there and planted the idea of me supplying Spar,” she said.
“I went to a Spar in Lyndhurst and approached them. The manager in Lyndhurst gave me the break. And from there I approached Spar Broadacres. The rest as they say is history. I now have a Spar poster next to my bed which serves as my daily reminder of how I got into Spars.”
Unlike for many, the Covid-19 pandemic has made her want to expand her business even more.
“I am waiting on God to provide me with money so I can buy machinery needed to expand my business. There is no point in me expanding now because I would definitely be setting myself up for failure. I have put in applications for funding and I’ll wait and see how that process unfolds,” she said.
“As odd as this may sound, but Covid-19 has been a blessing for me because that is when my seed was planted for me.”