by More Matshediso
What started as a passion project for women to be financially independent is now a booming bakery business that has created about 25 employment opportunities.
Matlhogonolo Ledwaba’s The BreadBox Bakery and Studio began as a way of positively impacting the lives of women by empowering them with baking skills.
Ledwaba is based in Midrand, Gauteng.
It was hard for Ledwaba to watch women on the streets of Midrand struggle to make ends meet which led to begging for handouts and relying on social grants for survival.
In 2016, the social entrepreneur decided to do something to change the course of what she saw every day by teaching female beggars how to bake.
“I started the project out of curiosity. I was saddened to see women on the streets unemployed, desperate for help,” said Ledwaba.
The desire to help kept lingering in Ledwaba’s mind.
“Growing up, my grandmother taught me how to bake. When I saw how many women were suffering, I knew that I could impart this skill to them. I invited two of the women to my house and we started baking from my kitchen,” she explained.
The initiative grew and more women were invited to learn the baking skill on weekends too.
“At first, it was hard to convince the ladies that my intentions were pure because they worried about human trafficking and being exploited, but a few of them had faith in me and that’s how we started,” she said.
At the time, she had not registered any business, but she had a foundation called The Sanctuary of Hope which she used as a platform for the women to sell the cakes and scones.
She later created a Facebook page called The BreadBox where she posted pictures of the products and people started placing orders. The orders were baked goods that were produced by the ladies that were trained by Ledwaba.
She explained that some of the ladies that she had trained went on to find jobs since they were now skilled.
Profit and demand
In 2017, Ledwaba realised that The BreadBox was growing and the demand for their products was increasing.
She decided to register the business and also found a facility to rent in Midrand where she currently operates from.
Today, the business makes specialty bakery products including croissants, bread rolls, cakes, and desserts, among other products.
“Today I am only left with one lady that I trained in the beginning. All the other ladies I trained have moved to greener pastures.”
The business has created more than 25 jobs since its inception. At the moment it employs 13 people permanently and five casual staff members.
“After moving to this facility, we were able to expand our product offering to include more pastry products and started hiring professional pastry chefs,” she said.
From the beginning of 2019, the business offered students from culinary schools an opportunity to do experiential learning, practical work or industry placement.
To date, about 60 students have benefitted from a three-month workplace training at the bakery and studio. At the moment, six students are doing their internship with The Breadbox Company.
“I do this for the students because I know how it feels to be denied opportunities.
“The biggest thing for me is to run a business that has an impact on the community,” she said.
Furthermore, the business also offers corporate catering, baking and cooking classes for children, and brand activations such as content creation and food pairings.
Ledwaba’s business is registered with Proudly South African, an organisation that promotes local products. The registration assisted with placing products produced by The BreadBox company on the shelves of retail stores around Gauteng including Spar, Meat World, and Makro Marketplace.
The Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) also helped to get the products approved by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS).
With July being Nelson Mandela Month, Ledwaba is an example of how citizens can perform acts of kindness and service to change the world around them. Nelson Mandela International Day is on 18 July.
For more information about Seda visit www.seda.org.za or call 0860 663 7867.
Visit The BreadBox Bakery and Studio on Facebook.
The BreadBox Bakery and Studio is situated at Shop B5 & 11, Carlswald Décor Center, Cnr Harry Gallaun & Fifth Rd Halfway Gardens, Midrand. – SAnews.gov.za
*This story first appeared in Vuk’uzenzele newspaper