Njabulo Sithole - A successful business plan that has snowballed
Njabulo Sithole - A successful business plan that has snowballed

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Njabulo Sithole - A successful business plan that has snowballed


Courageous entrepreneur, Njabulo Sithole, says it has been "a long journey" from his childhood dream of having his own business to owning and running a successful bakery in Maphephetheni.

Bakers Creationz provides cakes, muffins and signature coconut-coated snowballs for major retail outlets within the Durban area. They also bake customized wedding and celebration cakes. The spread of outlets now includes Spar stores, Pick 'n Pay Express, BP Express, Inanda Cash & Carry, Fedics, Shell and Engen Garage Shops. Most recently, he concluded a deal to supply Pick 'n Pay stores throughout South Africa.

Sithole recalls the challenges of growing up in a disadvantaged environment, where most people believed "big dreams were not possible" and youngsters were left believing they would only be employees and never employers.

After completing his Diploma in Business Management and Marketing, Njabulo had an opportunity to work in the United Kingdom.

While in London, he learnt a lot while working in the food processing industry, but he still laughs about having lived only on bread for his first five months there. It was only when he began sharing a house with fellow South Africans and took on cooking duties that he discovered his culinary passion. 

"By the end of the first week, I was cooking. By the end of the first month, I was the best cook in the house," he smiles.

This recognition and appreciation of his new-found passion inspired him to try his hand at baking, read cooking magazines, watch cooking shows and even improve on recipes that he found on the backs of flour packets.

On his return to South Africa, he worked for Woolworths for six months before taking up an offer from start-up business, Mpilende Foods.

 "I worked as if it was my own business and many people that I dealt with thought it was! Even now, I believe that if someone gives you an opportunity, you must grab it with both hands. If someone trusts you, you need to do far more than is asked of you."

He later teamed up with a colleague to create bread brand, Royal Bake, using contract bakers.

"The partnership was based on trust rather than a written agreement. When our working relationship broke down a year and a half later, I left," he explains. 

He concedes that some expensive, but valuable lessons were learnt from this experience,but he soon began to plan his next venture.

He identified trends and gaps in the market within his community, created a business plan for what was to become Bakers Creationz and applied for finance. Unfortunately, his rural location didn't appeal to potential funders.

Undeterred, Sithole saw an opportunity to grow this fledgling business by baking for schools in the area, using his own family kitchen. 

Sending his son to school with 15 muffins to sell, they were sold out before he reached the classroom. So Sithole began baking more and recruiting local children to sell his cakes at R2 each for a 50c commission. Teachers began buying cakes for lunch and larger orders came in for school functions. Orders for celebratory and wedding cakes followed.

"The challenge for me became production capacity," he admits.

Sithole found an old community shop with adjoining rooms rented out as accommodation. He moved into a small four by eight metre space at the back - and immediately addressed the first crucial requirement for his business- municipal food safety regulations.

Bakers Creationz was growing. The people renting in the accommodation moved out and the community shop's lease was about to expire. Sithole saw this as an opportunity to reduce the shop space to sell just necessities and his own cakes, allowing him to expand his bakery.

In 2014, Sithole targeted selling to established retailers, starting with the local spaza shop. Next was Inanda Cash 'n Carry 16kms away. Expecting at least three months' grace to grow capacity, he was shocked when asked to deliver 300 units the next day. He negotiated a two-day extension, scraped together money for ingredients and packaging and baked through the night and delivered his snowballs by minibus taxi.

To keep up with demand, Sithole resorted to borrowing a vehicle from a neighbour for deliveries and buying baking equipment from bakeries that had shut down.

As Pick 'n Pay and more retail customers were acquired, new challenges had to be addressed. To meet the required Global Foods Safety Initiative (GFSI) standards he had to invest significantly in the upgrading of his systems and equipment - including a paved and fenced loading area.

"I soon realised that building a business is not just about pushing volumes. We needed to maintain high standards and be food safety compliant. So, I set about upgrading the bakery."

Around this time, Sithole saw an advertisement to participate in SA Home Loans (SAHL) Sekela Development Programme, which develops and supports small enterprises.

After meeting up with a successful Sekela participant he realized that he could apply for both technical and financial support through the programme.

"I presented my situation of having secured a deal with Pick 'n Pay but that I hadn't supplied them with a single cake! I shared my fear that I might lose this important opportunity to establish my business. They evaluated my case and I was accepted onto the programme. Without SAHL, this facility would not look like it does today," he explains.

Today, the clean, neat white bakery on the hillside is at an important crossroads. Having completed his GFSI audit, Sithole is gearing up to supply Pick 'n Pay and additional Spar stores. He is also already talking to other major retailers and developing a snowball variant more suitable for their markets.

It's a real success story - set to snowball further! 

A selection of photographs is available.  The link to additional images is:  https://we.tl/t-C8dMmnwYBG

Bakers Creationz can be contacted on info@bakerscreationz.co.za or 081 716 2439

To find out more about the Sekela programme, contact SA Home Loans on sahlesd@sahomeloans.com 

Distributed by Shirley Williams Communications.  Contact Shirley on 083 303 1663 or shirley@shirleywilliams.co.za

Njabulo Sithole - A successful business plan that has snowballed

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