Entrepreneurs cook up success in a crisis

Kabelo Molepo started Daddy Bae's Kitchen around the time of the pandemic and has not looked back.
Kabelo Molepo started Daddy Bae's Kitchen around the time of the pandemic and has not looked back.
Poppy Louw
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa has hailed SA entrepreneurs who are starting businesses during Covid-19. 
  • One of these is Kabelo Molepo, who set up Daddy Bae's Kitchen when he found himself job-hunting.
  • The business has drawn attention of local media and social media alike, and began selling rapidly. 

The adage of tough times not lasting as long as tough people might be a cliché, but during the Covid-19 pandemic, its meaning was not lost on some South Africans who took the bold step of starting a business in the midst of a global health crisis.

On Monday, in his weekly newsletter, President Cyril Ramaphosa praised what he called a "new breed of young entrepreneurs" for coming up with "home-grown solutions" as the country continues to battle the economic shock of the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Among these entrepreneurs is Kabelo Molepo, who opted to turn lemons into lemonade as he faced unemployment, harnessing his love of cooking and the power of social media to turn his hobby into a fast-growing brand. Molepo went from job hunting to setting up Daddy Bae's Kitchen, which got its name from a nickname his fiancé gave him.

Daddy Bae's Kitchen – which had its roots in a cooking challenge with friends – launched its cookies in Kimberley on 13 June, which is Molepo's birthday.

Scarcely a month later, it is a brand established under agency Loepo Tharollo, has been featured in several local media, and showcases a broad range of his cooking skills – from cookie packets to home-cooked meals.

Getting started, Molepo says the business prepared the stock over four days, and managed to sell 160 packets, or 790 cookies, in less than 24 hours, with help from a friend, Zuko Mlambo, who offered to be their pick-up point in Pretoria.

'I wanted to contribute'

Poppy Louw, Molepo's fiancé, says the self-taught cook loves the kitchen and preparing delicious meals for his family.

"The passion I saw in him was enough for me to want to invest in this venture. He has always been supportive of my career and I wanted to give him the same sense of pride that I get from the work I do. Daddy Bae's Kitchen has been a part of our lives before it became a brand," says Louw.

Molepo says he considered the national lockdown both a challenge and an opportunity for his business as he was looking for job prospects in Johannesburg and had to come to terms with the fact that he may not find a job for months due to the lockdown.

"I wanted to contribute to the household, so using the time I had on my hands to bake and sell my cookies was my way of investing in myself and earning a living."

He says the primary challenges the business experienced involved supplies and packaging.

"We went without baking for almost two weeks because the supplier of our chocolate chips had difficulty sourcing the oil to produce them, as they source it from overseas," Molepo said.

The power of social media

Louw said the Daddy Bae's Kitchen marketing strategy was "undeniably amplified" through the use of social media.

"The lockdown also worked in our favour because people are spending more time online in order to pass time. Since the start of selling the cookies, we took pictures of our customers, or asked them to send us pictures that we could use on our social media pages," Louw said.

Entrepreneurship remains, however, a daunting endeavour in South Africa.

In 2018, while she was still Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu told Parliament that the failure rate for small, medium and micro enterprises within the first five years in South Africa was as high as 70%.

In her current role as Minister of Social Development, Zulu agrees that economic growth is critical in order to boost tax revenues from businesses – not least to fund social grants and other state development programs for the poor.

In Ramaphosa's Monday newsletter, he wrote that government had to commit resources towards supporting young entrepreneurs, which he termed as "the silver lining to the dark Covid-19 cloud".

Ramaphosa said government had made some progress in extending support to 1 000 youth-owned businesses since his State of the Nation Address in February, and said this initiative would reach its target by August, despite delays caused by the lockdown.

Long overdue

Tutwa Consulting senior associate Azwimpheleli Langalanga said it was a welcome and overdue development that entrepreneurs were mushrooming in South Africa, as the country had a typically slow entrepreneurial culture compared to its peers in other developing economies.

"The pandemic has pushed the entrepreneurial spirit to bear and ignited it. Government must play a pivotal role in encouraging and supporting entrepreneurs. State needs to be entrepreneurial in its own right," said Langalanga.

Efficient Group economist Dr Francois Stofberg said he was not entirely surprised by the growth of entrepreneurial ventures in the Covid-19 pandemic, as this pointed to the resilience of South Africans and entrepreneurs.

"You have to create an environment that can stoke that growth. The fan to the flame is the role that government needs to play in terms of policy, regulations, removing barriers. Our government things they are employment creators and they are not," said Stofberg.

Stofberg said government cannot rely on entrepreneurs to drive everything, adding that budding businesses need support from government. The R200 billion government committed to support SMMEs needed to be distributed urgently, Stofberg said.

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