Mmule Matlala is one of over 100 participants of Standard Bank Enterprise Development’s 12-month Basali Development Programme. She is the founder and CEO of ZDF Matlala Holdings, a company that manufactures agro-processed products and provides catering services in Ga-Rankuwa, Pretoria.
- The Programme was launched in 2021, with the objective of ensuring that participants increase their annual turnover, create quality job opportunities and improve their compliance in order to qualify for higher levels of funding. Read the full Programme release here.
- The Basali Programme played a major role in remodelling Mmule’s business using the Business Model Canvas.
- Mmule’s business has since generated almost R90 000 in chilli sales in the first few months of 2022.
The sound and aroma of a buzzing kitchen – thick soups and stews boiling, hot oil embracing diced vegetables and the tangible smell of recipes coming alive – has always been music to a young Mmule’s ears and heart. “I was raised by grandmother, she taught me how to cook. I’ve always loved cooking, even when we played house, I was the person cooking up a storm,” she shares.
When Mmule shared her desire to go to culinary school, her dad discouraged her. “My dad has a luscious vegetable garden, and I’ve always used it in my cooking and as an idea canvas. So I asked him, you have this beautiful garden that makes great food, yet you don’t want me to go to culinary school. Why is that?”
IT WAS TIME TO DO ME
Though she had her reservations, Mmule ended up studying Civil Engineering anyway and even went ahead with pursuing postgraduate qualification. But in 2016, she made a bold decision. “It was time for me to do me and follow my passion,” she says. She resigned from her job and as expected, her parents weren’t too happy with that choice. Soon after she founded her catering business, which started off with mostly corporate clients. “We also catered for general events like parties and weddings.”
SPINNING GOLD OUT OF A HARD TIME
In 2020, just three years after starting her business, the pandemic hit and lockdown was introduced. “As a catering company we obviously relied on social events. So the lockdown meant we had no work and no revenue. I had to lay off my employees, and I lost my house in the process and had to move back home. It was a truly terrible season in my life.”
It was however during that time, that Mmule reminded herself that she couldn’t change what happened. “I took the time to restrategise and revisit my business plan, my vision and business canvas model.” She shares that though she was depressed, she kept her head above water. She knew not all was lost because she could still cook and decided to explore other things she could do with that talent. “I researched agro-processing. See my family always loved chilli and we had some in my dad’s garden. So I played around with different ingredients and eventually established a chilli brand in 2020.”
Mmule started moving a bit of product and she was delighted when it was well received. “I then approached SEDA to request funding to test the product. Our chilli has been tested with the South African Bureau of Standards and barcoded as part of getting it market ready and be able to list with retailers. I’m looking into expanding our product line, I’ve managed to employ two ladies so far. Things are starting to pick up,” she tells us.
BASALI IS A GAME CHANGER
The transition from employee to employer is not always the easiest. “I had to unlearn so many things and create a new network of people who were in the business space. It has been quite a journey, it’s been 5 years of entrepreneurship but it feels like forever.”
When Mmule started her business, catering was also saturated with service providers. “So I started doing platters, it wasn’t something township caterers were exploring, I carved out a market for myself.” She confesses that the profits were nothing close to her salary and it scared her. “I found myself struggling to keep up and my provident fund was running out but I took comfort in knowing I was fulfilled. I knew I made the right decision following my passion and I understood it would take time.” Mmule also shares that even though her family may have felt like she was becoming a burden, they’ve now seen the results of her consistency. She accepted that her idea of success was different her parent’s expectations and that was okay.
“I invested time in learning about entrepreneurship, I was part of different incubators and the latest being with Basali. The Programme was a gamechanger for me because it came right on time – when I was at my lowest. It is jampacked with so many different things. Every aspect of business is taken care of and broken down to us perfectly.”
A WOMAN’S WOMAN
The impact of the pandemic is something Mmule understands all too well. And because she knows everyone was affected, she took the initiative to play her part in helping other women rebuild their lives. “I founded the Purple Lily Foundation, a faith-based NPO to help other women (re)discover their purpose, find their talent, hone their skills and monetise them. Having a circle of women who understand your challenges and support you in many ways is irreplaceable.”
How do you want your brand to be remembered?
“We don’t compromise on quality and excellence. We want people to remember my company as one that gave them an exceptional experience. Our product is all about experience. Our slogan is Excellent, Efficient and Exceptional – and we deliver nothing less. Cooking and eating is an event, and we want it to be a memorable event. To ensure this legacy stays intact, we invest a lot getting in feedback from our customers. We want them to feel special, create quality, fond memories.”
How hard was it for you not to splurge business profits?
“When I was employed, month-end meant we’re going out! I love shoes and I love spoiling myself. But running a business changed everything. Things like stock, overheads, salaries, vehicle maintenance all rested on my shoulders. I had to reinvest profits back into the business and that was something my mother always taught me. She used to advise me to buy homeware before I got married or moved into my home. I knew I needed to be wise with my profit, I had to make decisions to buy equipment in order to make money. Swiping your business card is nice but the charges will show you flames so I had to learn. I also attended a bookkeeping course where I learnt a lot about financial management and the different accounting elements.”
What would the title of your autobiography be?