On The Crust Of Something Big

Published 10 years ago
On The Crust Of Something Big

It all started with R40 ($4) and a neighbor’s oven. A year later, Espinaca Innovations is a bakery on a mission to make money by getting people in Khayelitsha in the Western Cape province to eat bread packed with spinach.

Espinaca, meaning spinach in Spanish, is where Nomjana bakes about 40 loaves and umpteen muffins every day. But the idea didn’t come by easily.

Nomjana started off selling clothes in his community of Khayelitsha, just outside Cape Town, to make a living. But he knew he needed something of his own, something innovative.


A year before attending the Raymond Ackerman Academy, Nomjana decided to change his lifestyle and became a vegetarian. As he read a newspaper article about diabetic patients standing in long queues at hospitals, it spurred the spinach bread idea. It could be the answer for many people.

“I knew spinach was something that is a solution to my society due to the fact that it grows [all year], it’s versatile and it’s nutritious. I did my research, and found it was the most nutritious vegetable in the world,” adds Nomjana.

While attending the Academy, in partnership with the University of Cape Town, Nomjana was able to improve his entrepreneurial skills. The Academy is a post-matric level institution offering studies in entrepreneurial development.


Espinaca Innovations was a great idea on paper but implementing it proved to be a challenge. The only problem was that nobody was interested at the time.

“Eventually I just sat down and said let me use what I have and during that time I had nothing but the intellectual capital and $4 in my pocket. And I didn’t have an oven. I was living in a shack (a tin roof house) in a backyard with my wife. We were just dating at the time,” Nomjana says.

But he knew that he couldn’t operate this kind of business from a shack. So he asked a neighbor if he could bake bread in her oven when she was not using it.

In February last year, with his neighbor’s oven and R40 ($4), Nomjana sold about 200 loaves in 25 days. He grows the spinach in his backyard in about 20 crates and enriches the bread with it.


All good so far but Nomjana soon realized that he was not making enough money with the borrowed oven so he approached Pick ’n Pay (a grocery store owned by millionaire Raymond Ackerman) for assistance.

“That’s when they assisted with a four burner oven of my own I could use on a daily basis and at night as well. I spent my time baking lots of breads and going to the field and selling to people on the street, which I’m still doing now. Like going to train stations and selling door-to-door,” says Nomjana.

The grocery store placed Espinaca Innovations into their small business incubation until it was big enough to become a supplier.


He now supplies the Pick ’n Pay head office canteen.

With the grocery store’s assitance Nomjana was able to bake more loaves but distribution became an issue as he was producing more bread than he could sell.

The solution was delivering bread on bicycles. He partnered with a crowd funding platform which helped to raise around R11,200 ($1,000) in two months. It enabled Nomjana to buy five bicycles to deliver bread.

Today, Nomjana has a wider range of spinach products, ranging from spinach muffins, sandwiches using the spinach bread, juices and smoothies.


These spinach products are sold and delivered to orphanages, pre-schools, and homes in Khayelitsha. He also supplies Spar, a grocery store chain, in Khayelitsha.

Nomjana will soon establish his own premises where he would be able to sell all his spinach products. He hopes to be able to turn the idea into a franchise across townships in the Western Cape.