Business ideas are found almost everywhere and 35-year-old Boipelo Mokoka found hers in the kitchen!
Growing up, playing house with her peers in Molepolole, Mokoka never imagined that her passion for cooking would someday literally put food on her table, let alone turn into a business enterprise.
The best childhood memory that immediately lightens up her face as she talks about her business journey is the aroma of the tasty dishes her grandmother used to prepare many years ago and the valuable lessons she learnt from her that were to later lay the foundation of a company she appropriately named ‘Munch A Crunch Catering’.
“I learnt how to cook during my junior school years from my grandmother. She started by teaching me how to bake bread (diphaphatha) which came out so perfectly and my relatives would visit frequently just to have some of them,” she fondly recalls with a giggle.
Surprisingly, despite her considerable talent and business potential, cooking did not become her first choice when Mokoka pursued her tertiary studies.
Instead she chose to study for an Associate Degree in Broadcasting, Radio & TV. After graduation she went on to do her professional internship at Botswana Television (Btv), but still then, the desire to cook still followed her and she decided to make an extra buck by preparing food from her grandma’s tasty recipe and selling to colleagues from the Mass Media Complex gate.
Although she had ironically gained more popularity as the ‘food lady’ than a broadcaster at Btv, Mokoka decided to close shop when her internship came to an end and she took up a job at a local call centre.
The money was not good enough for the lifestyle of the ambitious and fun loving young woman she was and she eventually quit to join the long unemployment lines.
But then the entrepreneurship bug had already bitten and she did not take long in the job hunt as she eagerly responded to an urgent call by Botswana Couriers one morning when they needed to prepare lunch for their team.
“It was around 10am and I quickly bought the ingredients and prepared a delicious meal which I delivered late at around 3 O’clock. But the food was so good that the management forgot about the late delivery and after munching away all the food they were happy to give me a long term contract. We signed on the dotted line and shook hands, marking my official breakthrough as a professional caterer and businesswoman. That was back in 2014,” she recalls with pride.
The rest, as they say, is history and fast forward to 2021, Mokoka talks about the growth of her business despite the outbreak of Covid-19.
“I have grown so much as I managed to acquire a trading license and I am currently operating from home, at New Canada. However the Covid-19 disruption compelled me to change my business model. these days I prepare the food according to the orders I get. Sometimes I outsource the labour depending on the size of the magnitude of the demand,” she says, further noting that the strategy has worked for her as she is able to beat her competitors who cook a lot of food and sell less due to the competition.
“I decided to work by a call, which has been profitable as I have been getting a lot of gigs, ” she says.
Quizzed about the challenges she experiences, Mokoka says: “Pricing has always been the biggest problem because I price my meals looking at the cost of ingredients and the nutritional quality while others under price just to get customers. The Covid-19 pandemic was another challenge for me as everything has been slow hence it was a huge hiccup even though I was doing well before,” she says sighing with relief at the good news of the end of State of public Emergency. “There is hope for recovery, but we’ll see how that goes”.