SA superfood turns a profit

A desire to bring South African indigenous food to the forefront, educate and share the delicacy with potential consumers all over the world birthed Matomani, a Xitsonga word for ‘Mopani caterpillars.’

Matomani is a proudly South African healthy food company that uses the local superfood, Mopani caterpillars, to provide consumers with a sustainable, low-impact, organic, healthy, and protein-rich addition to their diet. Their offering includes a unique Mopani Protein bar in a chocolate flavor and other healthy treats such as Mopani flour and Mopani biscuits, a high protein savory snack made with stone-ground Mopani flour.

Founder and owner Wendy Vesela-Ntimbani, says the products are great for consumers’ diets, but the business also supports rural communities and preserves the environment. She explains that Mopani worms contain about 60% protein and are rich in iron, calcium, and phosphorus, which is a healthy protein alternative. Also, Mopani worms are a highly sustainable food source, providing more protein per gram than meat.

For Vesela-Ntimbani her tasty cuisines are a healthy option that can solve some of the global challenges like food security and can contribute towards the reduction of greenhouse gases.

When asked why she became an entrepreneur, she says her driving force to become an entrepreneur was her wish to use what she does as a tool to make an impactful and positive change in people’s lives and the environment.

She built her customer base by physically going out to connect with customers. Another innovative method was through brand activations, this enabled customers and potential customers to taste, touch and feel the products, and get to know the organisation better. She adds “That has worked very well for us in terms of building a successful customer base.”

For Vesela-Ntimbani her entrepreneurship journey was sparked by the excitement of doing something different every day. “I want to use what I do as a tool to make an impactful positive change in people’s lives and the environment,” she says.

Unfortunately, challenges such as capital funding, access to the market, and getting shelf space for the products didn’t make it easy. She adds that she would get consumers calling weekly asking where they can physically buy the products except online.

Fortunately, her resilience, patience, and persistence helped her push through. She advises entrepreneurs to ‘just start.’ She adds if you have an idea, bring it to life in the simplest way possible and then continue to build and grow from there.

With the advancement of technology, social media platforms have made it easier for anyone to start a business and attract and gain customers. Distribution channels have removed geographical barriers as well. She explains that it’s easy to register a business with CIPC, anyone can do it for as little as R125. Sadly, what hasn’t changed is getting funding, which remains a challenge.

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