No strong feelings of uncertainty, scepticism and doubt or even a failed business have been able to deter the baking dreams of Siphesihle Nomzanga. The Eastern Cape born food business owner has powered through financial constraints, a family tragedy and even the pandemic to make his Country Boy’s Baking Studio a reality.
“Every mistake is something you can learn from,” he says.
”I told myself that if baking is what I’ve been doing for the last few years and I love it, then baking is my life. I love being a baker, and I don’t know what else I would do. Finally being able to put food on the table for my family through my God-given hands is good.”
In 2018, he needed an outlet for his grief following the death of his mother, Nolungelo. He started Country Boy’s Baking Studio in his native Qumbu. This however failed due to the pandemic.
“We did well enough to the point where we meant to expand. When Covid-19 struck, business was slow on our end because of our dependency on weddings and events, and the business was forced to close.”
A short hiatus later and he now runs his business as a side-hustle. Based in Honeydew in Northern Johannesburg, the Country Boys Baking Studio offers a wide range of baked goods including bespoke cakes, muffins and cookies to low- and medium-income households in the area.
A food love born from struggle
Nomzanga was raised in the Eastern Cape and Gauteng.
The eldest of five siblings, Nomzanga recounts that life that was not difficult, but also not simple. As the only son of his mother, Nolungelo, and father, Nkosovuyo, he was tasked with the responsibility of caring for his ill mother.
To ease the strain his family moved to Evaton in Gauteng.
He spent most of his childhood indoors, managing household chores like cleaning and cooking, while his father worked in a manganese mine in Meyerton. The kitchen soon became his playground, and with a little guidance from an aunt, it sparked his love for food and baking.
“I will never forget the role my aunt Antana played in my life,” he says. “She taught me culinary skills like cleaning as you go and knife skills. Her recipes are also still ringing in my head even now – we never made anything just for the sake of cooking, we always followed the recipe.”
A baker is born
Nomzanga initially had no intention of exploring his food dream.
He graduated from the Jongilizwe College in 1993 and later enrolled to the Mthatha Technical College back in the Eastern Cape to pursue his qualifications in business administration.
“I was forced to look for work because of financial constraints at home. I job hunted in Vaal and the surrounding districts.”
A life-changing call from the Sharpeville Hypermarket saw him start his career as a baker. “Without any prior culinary training, I learned on the job as a casual baker for three years.”
“I enjoyed every aspect of my job. I learned a lot about how to make bread and other things in the bakery, as well as how to run the business,” he says.
“As I got better at baking, I went to a lot of stores and learned how to bake from master bakers and confectioners until I became a professional baker.”
‘The one who perseveres never gets bad luck’
In 2004, Nomzanga returned to the Eastern Cape, intent on using his skills to help his people.
“After observing many unemployed youths in my hometown of Qumbu, I told them that I would establish a project to combat hunger and unemployment in my community,” he says.
“That year, I went around the hamlet gathering unemployed youth, forming a team of 15, and we started baking out of my own pocket.”
His Uvuko Youth project was eventually funded by the Mhlontlo municipality. “The more financing we received, the more we faced break-ins at the project by the same youth I was assisting,” he laments.
Nomzanga managed to raise R250 000 in funding from the department of social development. “I left the project after R250 000 was deposited into it.”
A lot happened to the project after he left. Nomzanga learned that they blew the money after a year or two. He was disappointed since he believed they did not value his efforts, but he decided to get on with his life.
“Because I was still young and needed experience with spending and other things, I travelled to Cape Town to see my cousin, who was staying in Muizenberg. My visit rapidly turned into a job search.”
In search of more territories
Nomzanga worked for different Spar retail locations in Cape Town until 2012, when he relocated back to the Eastern Cape to work for Spargs Wholesale in Mthatha. He eventually became a part-time employee at Veronica’s Cake shop, where he stayed until his mother’s death in 2018.
“I needed an outlet for my grief following the death of my mother. I then found out that I could play around with flour, which led to the creation of Country Boys Baking in February 2019.”
He funded his dream business with money from his own pockets. “Country Boys Baking Studio is a home-based business that can make a lot of different things. Most of its customers are low- and middle-income families.”
“The Country Boys brand envisions its products appearing on the shelves of grocery stores across the country and even abroad, in categories like spices and baking ingredients, to name just a few. Selling franchise opportunities and being the most affordable local brand in the country are the company’s goals,” he says.
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