We learn about her heart for Africa and the inspiration behind Local Village Foods.
There’s something striking and encouraging about a woman who didn’t allow life’s uphill battles to stand in her way on her road to success. And when that same woman incorporates her passion and matters that are important to her into her career, we deem her truly inspirational. Sipamandla Manqele is one such woman…
Born, raised and roused
Originally from Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape, Sipamandla studied community development and business in KwaZulu-Natal. If you ask her to describe herself in a nutshell, she says: “I’m passionate about food, equity and sustainability. I’m inspired by the African continent, its diverse cultures, and its quest for social and economic unity, and I want to play a role in the implementation of free and fair trade across Africa.”
Her love for home-made foods was instilled in her during childhood, and her loved ones had a helping hand in it, too. “My mother would make us granadilla juice or lemonade from fruits in our garden, and we would search for wild fruits in the forests every Sunday during Sunday school with friends,” she says.
“Food has always been part of my life, but I think this was clearer when my older sister taught me how to make lasagna at the age of 16, and roasting chicken with coke… I knew then that I loved cooking – the ability to take a humble ingredient and turn it into something that will bring comfort, remind someone of their childhood memories or just to indulge in.”
About Local Village Foods
Sipamandla is open and outspoken about her love for Africa. When she combined that with her love for food, and her university studies in community development and business, she founded Local Village Foods. However, the journey of starting her own food business was anything but perfect.
“We have pivoted about three times, lost money, almost closed down twice, but we have also had many wins along the way such as store listings, support from our customers, launching new products and being able to create value within the industry,” she shares.
And while there are still challenges today – such as the food industry being highly regulated and requiring capital to comply with the regulation, and the highly competitive FMCG market, which makes it very difficult for new entrants with limited capital, Local Village Foods is on a steady path to success.’
“Local Village Foods sources uniquely African raw materials and creates food product offerings ranging from pasta, grain, gluten-free flour, snack bars, canned foods and various superfoods,” Sipamandla explains.
Her focus on African wholefoods comes from it being a staple in Africa. “We have eaten and grown grains, legumes and superfoods for centuries but they are not as easily available in the mainstream market, hence we decided to focus on these commodities.”
To Sipamandla, taking passion and converting it into a product that someone is willing to pay for is one of her proudest moments in her career. One of her recent highlights is launching her products in Dis-Chem.
“Our vision is to be the preferred pan-African food producer,” she says. They plan on achieving this by creating delicious and healthy food products using African whole foods, ensuring that they run a sustainable enterprise.
“I hope that we can add value to the lives of our customers by creating good and healthy foods, and at the same time make a positive economic impact in the African continent, to ensure that African foods are featured on the global banquet table.”
Who do you look up to in the food industry?
Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder of Chobani. They have made helping people and communities a priority for their brand.
What do you love most about the food industry?
The scope that exists for innovation; the ability to create something from your kitchen and eventually be able to take it to market.
Do you have advice for other South Africans hoping to reach the successes that you have?
We haven’t reached success yet, but in your pursued focus, I think it’s important to know the trade, show up and be consistent.
Words: Bianca Muller