Eastern Cape foodie Vuyelwa Makile suffered major losses as a child, but instead of lying down, she used it as motivation to build a foundation to start her own businesses and make money.
Makile is the proud owner of L&O Food and Braai, which caters for funerals, parties, birthdays, events and meetings in her hometown of Dutywa.
“My business requires my full attention, including preparing monthly lunch boxes for children with five menus per week for various schools. I accomplish everything with time management and planning.”
Makile says her menu depends on what her customers want, this include traditional dishes like samp, umvubo, pap and rice with vegetables and meat.
New opportunities arise
According to Makile, she used to receive praise for her cooking when she was a child, proving the notion that some people have a talent for craftsmanship from a young age. People would tell her she was a good cook. Now she uses this skill to make money.
As Makile sat at home with her newborn, she pondered ways to earn money and a spaza shop came to mind. She says she had saved money from her cosmetics business and used it to open a spaza shop.
“Customers would enter my shop and enquire whether I sold Russians, iKota, or amagwinya. Then I thought to myself, perhaps I should try that.”
When Makile started cooking, she knew someone who had a container. But after two months, it was taken back. However, it did not deter her from persevering and she subsequently decided to find an apartment.
“In 2020, I launched my cooking business, L&O Food and Braai, and I was also running my spaza shop. People would ask if I sell spinach, potatoes, or onions. I considered it, checked out a vacant garden, and started immediately.”
Childhood filled with loss
Makile believes that her experience with loss has toughened her up for the culinary business. She lost her parents and twin brother all in one year.
She was in grade three when tragedy struck, forcing her to move in with her paternal grandmother, Novamile Makile. Transitioning from a small household to living with her large paternal family was not easy.
“When our parents died, we were only nine years old. And then life happened. I believe anyone who grew up without their biological parents can attest to the fact that sometimes it hurts because there is so much in life that we could talk to them about.”
The spirit of a hustler
Makile says she didn’t know they were getting a foster care grant until she was in grade 11. Since their financial situation was tight at home, she would look for a part-time job during school holidays so she could contribute to the household.
“I hustled in the Dutywa CBD at the beginning of 2014. Fortunately, I found a part-time job as a mageu promoter at Mpumalanga Supermarket. I worked there for two years.”
In 2015, Makile enrolled at King Sabatha Dalindyebo, Mngazi Campus in Mthatha, where she studied office administration. At the college, she began selling handbags, cosmetics, and clothing to sustain her financial situation.
“I had a child in 2020, and consequently, my business failed due to lack of marketing. I had a chance to consider what could sustain me, so at the end of 2020 I opened a spaza shop.”
Doing it all at once
Makile says that running a business and being a mother at the same time is no easy task. She adds that she plans her day so that she can fulfill all her responsibilities.
She emphasises patience in business, stating that sometimes it works well and other times it fails miserably. Therefore, people must be aware of this; otherwise quitting is much simpler than starting.
One thing that always helps her, is whenever she considers quitting, she always remembers why she started in the first place.
“When I became my own boss, one of my goals was to alleviate my financial stress and make money, the second was to create employment opportunities, and the third was to make a name for myself.”
Makile aspires to own more catering businesses in the Eastern Cape. She also hopes young people would realise at a young age that it is important to possess at least one skill if they are unable to find employment in their field of study.
It worked for her.
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