The national lockdown has seen plenty of cooking virtuosos emerge from their home kitchens. One Johannesburg family trio made the most of the adversity brought on by the global pandemic.
Kabelo Molepo (32), his partner, Poppy Louw (33) and their busy son, Leano (4), have managed to triumph over what has been a period of struggle for many.
Their cookie business, Daddy Bae’s Kitchen, has been a life-long dream for Molepo. It is also a proud moment for Louw and lots of fun for their son. It was a cooking competition amongst neighbours in their Johannesburg complex that lit the fuse for this venture.
Like so many other South Africans, they tried to beat the lockdown blues armed with wooden spoon and ladle in hand, taking to the kitchen in hot pursuit of their solace and peace of mind.
“It was the height of the lockdown. We pretty much had nothing to do during the hours at home,” says Molepo.
“The chocolate chip cookies were my dessert, I wanted to do something simple that tasted good. They (the neighbours and Louw) loved the cookies so much, they suggested I sell it,” he adds.
The beginning of the year had been a turbulent start for the couple. Over the past six years they have had their fair share of struggles but never anticipated Molepo losing his job before the global pandemic. “As much as it has been difficult, food has been our comfort,” says Molepo.
“I have never really felt any kind of joy from my previous jobs. But for the first time I have found my peace, this great passion,” he continues.
It has been surreal to see her partner blossom over the past few months, Louw adds.
“The stars have been aligned throughout the entire process. Sometimes you want something that does not want you, but when you shift focus and go after something that you are called to, the universe opens up and the possibilities are endless,” she says.
Today they have turned their tiny 6 m x 4 m kitchen and living room area into a bakery and distribute cookies in an assortment of flavours around Johannesburg and Pretoria. They have even set up a flagship extension in Louw’s familial home in Kimberley. “Orders can go up to 700 to 1000 cookies a day. Our biggest to date has been 1000 cookies in one day in Kimberley,” says Louw.
‘Commit to the vision, put everything into your passion, the worst thing you can get is a no.’ – Kabelo Molepo
Starting a business in a full-scale economic crisis is risky.
They are still amazed at how their cookie gamble took off amid the global economic slump, with freshly baked cookies flying out of their oven daily.
“We just took everything as it came and luckily for us, it bore fruit,” Molepo says.
Louw echoes his sentiments and adds that, “one of the greatest things to come out of our small business has been tapping into our support network of family and friends.”
“Daddy Bae grew because of the friends that are in Kimberley and the friends that are in Johannesburg. Everybody wants in on this, not because they want us to achieve our dreams but because the cookies just taste so good,” Louw says.
A dream realised
Molepo is no stranger to the kitchen. Louw candidly says that their family dynamic is not modelled on the conventional gender norms. “He takes the helm when it comes to the kitchen, to be honest,” she says.
“I have really appreciated him taking charge of the home front, I work in a political office and come back home and at least baby is fed, the house is well managed and there is this beautiful plate of soul food waiting for me,” says Louw.
This love and passion for food and cooking stems from his late grandmother, Mamosadinya Moheta. Fondly known as Kgadi, she has been the spark that ignites the torch of the business. Molepo says that carrying on with his passion has been an ode to her memory.
Raising Molepo and his three cousins on a dime, he remembers how she would make wholesome meals out of tinned fish and beef and shop-bought snoek.
“I saw her kneading dough this one time and I said, ‘Koko, what’s up, I see you mixing flour and water and this alien baby thing comes out.’ She would later explain that she was baking bread or making vetkoeks.”
‘When you shift focus and go after something that you are called to, the universe opens up and the possibilities are endless.’ – Poppy Louw
The trio’s ultimate dream is to own an American style diner. “Kabelo’s favourite meal to make is a grilled cheese, they are decadent and mouth-watering and there is just cheese everywhere,” Louw gushes.
Running a business with a busy four-year-old has its challenges, as one would expect, says an amused Louw. “The role he has given himself is the packaging part with me. We seal the cookies in plastic and then put them into the rice paper bags. His duty is to turn on the sealing machine.”
He has grown bored of the task, though. With this boredom came bit of mischief. “At first, he used to eat the chocolate chips and that was a bit of a problem, na ja stocko ngwana batho (he ate from his own cookie jar), and it would happen when we weren’t looking,” Louw chuckles.
“Ironically, though, he said to me the other day, ‘Mommy can you please buy me a stove, I want to start baking’,” she adds.
The trio also have dreams of one day owning their very own boutique bakery. However, the dynamics of owning a business as a couple is challenging.
“Communication is important! As much as I am a communicator by profession, when it comes to my life personally, I was failing dismally. I am still learning. It’s the same as parenting, it’s a learning experience every single day,” says Louw.
They advise fellow entrepreneurs to never be scared of their dreams no matter how big or small they are. “If you want to do something, just do it. You will never go wrong when it comes to food. People love to eat and people love cookies,” says Louw.
You have got to risk it to get the biscuit, Molepo adds. “Commit. Commit to the vision, put everything into your passion, the worst thing you can get is a ‘no’, honestly. It builds character.”