Stepping out as a food entrepreneur is risky business. Just ask home cook and Instagram foodie Thandi Boshomane, who is also full-time nurse facing the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nursing and cooking may be worlds apart, but this did not stop Boshomane (31) from venturing into the world of business while benefitting from the security of full-time employment. The experience has left her wiser, if slightly bruised.
The culinary industry is unpredictable, she says. Slowly recovering from the impact of the pandemic, this is true now more than ever.
It is important that home cooks avoid being haphazard in venturing into the food business without a security blanket, she stresses.
Boshomane holds a BTech degree in nursing science, a qualification she obtained from the Tshwane University of Technology in 2013.
“Food is just something that I love. It has always been a distant dream to make a living from it. Cooking may be my passion, but I just cannot quit my job without being sure that my business will sustain me for a long-time.”
Learning from her own mistakes as a full-time nurse and entrepreneur, she realised the catering business is not all tasty dishes and delicious profits.
“Do not come into this industry when you only have money on the brain. Do it because you are passionate. If money is not coming in, you are going to be disappointed,” she says.
All you really need is a little consistency in your side-hustle. “You have to pour all of you into your business if you are passionate. You need to be consistent.”
When Boshomane is not saving lives, she chronicles her kitchen passions recreating vibrant foods from her childhood through a social media project she calls Dijo Tša Kgopotso (“Food from my memories”).
‘I never loved cooking’
Born to a family of home cooks, Boshomane recalls that she never did any heavy lifting in the kitchen until she met her husband.
“I was the youngest of my siblings, so I never loved cooking, that is until I met my partner. When we started dating, he would ask me to cook for him and I just cooked whatever I would find in the fridge, but it was not a proper meal at all.”
Her sisters, Tlou and Chuene, and late mother, Maphuti, would be her guiding light in the kitchen. “In my family cooking comes naturally, that is mostly because of my mother’s influence. She died when I was young, from stories I have heard she was a great cook.
Her love for baking stems from her sisters.
“Watching my eldest sister bake is where my passion grew. I was in primary school when she used to make these fresh, chocolate flavoured scones. I can still remember how they taste, how they smell. They were delicious. She is where I draw my inspiration from.”
Your heart or nothing
The food business is not for the faint-hearted. In 2015, Boshomane and her partner bought a mobile kitchen and decided to sell food on weekends. Realising that people enjoyed her food, this prompted her to start a catering business.
One of her biggest highlights thus far has been satisfying the palates of 150 people at an event she catered for. “I felt like I was dreaming. It felt like people were seeing me and I was showing them my skills.”
‘You have to pour all of you into your business if you are passionate. You need to be consistent.’
The catering business is challenging. “You will find you deal with clients who decide that they don’t want to pay you, now you find yourself running after them.”
Another hard truth, she would soon realise, was the reality of hustling hard.
“Working two jobs can be strenuous. It is like you are running at a loss. After my big catering gig, I got a lot of requests. That gig showed me I was capable of handling big events, but it affected my work,” she says.
She has since limited her footing in the catering business, and now utilises her spare time baking cakes for clients in Gauteng and curating content on the Dijo Tša Kgopotso Instagram.
“Failing at something you love is painful,” she says.
“As an essential worker, sometimes I work Monday to Friday, but sometimes I also work on Saturdays. No matter how tired I am, I will have clients who need an emergency cake for a birthday or any celebration. I cannot say no because I will be losing out on clients.”
She may love chronicling her cooking adventures but keeping up with the needs of more than 30 000 followers puts her through her paces.
When the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic hit Mzansi, Boshomane was amongst the victims, contracting the disease in July last year.
While in self-isolation, the home cook looked to the kitchen when dealing with her forced hiatus, garnering a massive Instagram following in the process.
“I was cooking the entire time, although I had Covid. I had nothing to do, then I started creating quite a few dishes. Cooking became my outlet again. I would make small dishes and would post every day to the point where I became more consistent.”
Never emulate and always be original, she advises.
“Don’t try to copy what Dijo Tša Kgopotso is doing. It shows you don’t have your own identity. Be different, be consistent and love what you have put on the table.”