A LITTLE over two years ago, Lufefe Nomjana began baking bread using spinach as the primary ingredient. He made it in a neighbour’s oven near his home in Khayelitsha, outside Cape Town.

These days, ask practically anyone in the township where you can find "Dr Spinach", "King Spinach" or "Popeye of Khayelitsha" and they’ll direct you to the Espinaca Express Bakery, in a modified shipping container in Spine Road near Nomjana’s home. Here he, his wife, Matfhedifo and two full-time assistants bake up to 150 loaves of Espinaca bread a day in two industrial-size ovens.

In addition to selling it in Spine Road, the Espinaca Innovations team delivers bread to local customers using their "bread on a bicycle service", supplies a nearby Spar and caters for events with its bread, muffins and "ruskottis" (a rusk-biscotti hybrid) all made with spinach. Standard Espinaca loaves and gluten-free spinach bread — specially created for the Banting brigade — will also shortly be available at the Wellness Warehouse in Kloof Street in the city.

Earlier this year, Nomjana was invited to the Discovery Vitality Summit in Johannesburg to discuss "the business of health". This resulted in an offer from Virgin Active SA MD Ross Faragher-Thomas to install an outdoor gym near the bakery, which is due to happen shortly. Moreover, Nomjana’s company recently agreed to be an official catering partner for Mindful Revolution, a company that conducts mindfulness workshops. In September Espinaca Innovations was a finalist in the CapeTalk Small Business Awards.

Nomjana’s bread grew popular. He turned to online crowdfunding service Thundafund to help raise funds to buy bicycles so he could deliver more bread faster and further away. The next step, he says, is to roll out the concept nationally as a franchise. Nomjana has a business plan.

Nomjana was barely in his 20s when he began selling clothing door-to-door. But, although he was hard-working and driven, he realised he wasn’t as financially savvy as he needed to be to run a business. "Although I had the ambition and discipline to be self-employed, things weren’t going well," he says. "I didn’t know enough about stock control, cash flow and so on."

It was on a five-month course at the Raymond Ackerman Academy (of Entrepreneurial Development) that Nomjana realised that he could build a business while helping people in his community. He was bothered by the fact that people around him didn’t have access to healthy alternatives by way of convenient food and that many were unaware of how harmful poor dietary choices could be.

"I started thinking about how I could build a business and also help people. Also, I needed to establish something with very little money — R40, in fact. That’s when I began thinking spinach thoughts," says the 27-year-old. "Spinach grows easily almost everywhere. It’s one of the most nutrient-rich vegetables with many healthy side effects. So I planted spinach and began experimenting with recipes. My vision was to produce something that would convince people in my neighbourhood that healthy eating could be as affordable and tasty — and convenient — as the fast food they are used to."

Nomjana’s bread grew popular. He turned to online crowdfunding service Thundafund to help raise funds to buy bicycles so he could deliver more bread faster and further away. The next step, he says, is to roll out the concept nationally as a franchise. Nomjana has a business plan.

See more articles