Four years ago, Metjie Shongwe decided to turn her food hobby into a booming business. Her budget-friendly recipe posts on social media have reached thousands of people on Facebook, leaving most of her followers raving about her tasty homemade atchar and chilli sauce.
Today, Shongwe runs a successful catering and décor company with hopes of publishing her own cook book and seeing her vegetable atchar and chilli sauce in supermarkets in Mzansi.
Growing up in Mohodi Ga Manthata in Limpopo, the 36-year-old and her three brothers were raised by their maternal grandparents. Shongwe says she first gave cooking a shot at the age of 12 when she had to prepare pap (maize meal) for her family.
After matriculating from George Tladi High School, she was eager to further her studies in tourism. But due to financial constraints and an unplanned pregnancy she had to push her studies aside.
Shongwe worked as a bank teller and a receptionist at a beauty spa, until she started working for a stationery store in 2007. “I worked for CNA for 8 years as an admin and store manager. While I was there, I also completed a national certificate in wholesale and retail operations.”
She’s currently studying towards a diploma in small business management from the University of South Africa (Unisa).
A wife to husband Busani and a mother to her son Kamogelo, Shongwe realised her culinary potential when friends and family couldn’t get enough of her food. In 2016 she decided to level up her hobby.
“I am a self-taught cook and I created a page on Facebook called Cooking with Metjie, where I share my experiments with food and recipes that I create at home.”
Through sharing well-known and easy recipes with her followers, Shongwe aims to inspire those with a limited budget. “My reason was simply to inspire women who can’t cook or afford expensive ingredients, so we use what we have and create something amazing. Recently my page reached an audience of 100 000 people,” Shongwe says.
She admits that she draws inspiration from the well-known culinary influencer Zanele Van Zyl. In 2015, Shongwe started working from home when she turned her hobby into a business known as Metjie’s Kitchen and Décor. “I have a small catering and décor business and employ four people. My work is very demanding, because I sometimes have to wake up at 3am to prepare platters for clients.”
A speciality which her business is known for is her homemade vegetable atchar and chilli sauce. Shongwe says that she and her husband have a mutual love for chillies. One day she randomly decided to try and make chilli sauce and it was a winning recipe.
“I decided to sell it to my friends, because they loved it so much that they asked me to make more. As for the atchar, I was catering at an event when I was left with lots of leftover veggies. I decided to try and make vegetable atchar. A lot of people are buying it and I am humbled by the support,” says Shongwe.
Her advice to her younger self would be to be patient. “Take your own time, because life is not a race, but a journey.” The journey might not be easy, but she continues to remain motivated, especially when trying to complete a difficult task.
Keeping the future close in mind, Shongwe has plans to own an event space and extend her business and brand. “I would love to have my own cook book and see my homemade vegetable atchar and chilli sauce on the shelves of big supermarkets.”