Key to her venture was relocating to the township where she was born and raised; hence the naming of her bakery. Annah started the business baking on her own in her home kitchen. Ten years on, Thabong Bakery has a staff of six and premises at the local shopping centre. “Today, we supply bread and confectionary to over 30 supermarkets, caterers and spaza shops in Thabong. We also supply some schools that fall within government feeding-scheme programmes, as well as the general public,” she says. “Being in business is like taking a very long journey, and it can get lonely when you are travelling alone,” Annah says of her experience as a businesswoman. “Networking and associating with the right people has helped me to persevere when things are not going well, since they can impart knowledge and act as a support system. Finding a business mentor at very early stages is very important, as you will need someone more knowledgeable than you to help steer you in the right direction and anticipate any pitfalls, especially when it comes to management and business finances,” she continues.
Her advice for other women charting the same entrepreneurial journey is to begin by undertaking thorough research on their chosen businesses. “Once you are certain it is the route you want to follow, focus on delivering quality service to your clients to the best of your abilities, and persevere during tough times.” Moreover, for the survival of a business, one needs to be flexible and to adapt to ever-changing markets. “Being innovative and taking full advantage of the technology available will also help in moving your business forward,” points out Annah.
As for the future of Thabong Bakery, Annah’s new dream is to introduce a door-to-door bread delivery service, and to capitalise on the exposure that Thabong Bakery will receive from branded bicycles. “While great progress is being made with securing funds for this service, there is nothing signed or concluded at the moment, but I’m positive it will be soon,” reveals Annah with her trademark enthusiasm. She is also working on acquiring motorcycles fitted with sidecarts, as they will be faster and will be able to go further without consuming a lot of fuel. “This venture will mean many new clients coming on board on a contract basis, which will give the business the cash flow boost it needs and an opportunity to market and grow the business,” continues Annah.
One development that is sure to boost her chances for growth was her selection as the national winner of the Brandhouse Pitch & Polish Entrepreneur Award. As part of her prize, Annah says she benefitted from coaching workshops with Raizcorp and advice from Brandhouse and 36ONE Asset Management. “I also received marketing sponsorship from Z2A Village, a well-known marketing company in Bloemfontein, after they saw the progress I was making in the competition. The competition gave me a lot of exposure, particularly on radio and in various women’s magazines.”
Not one to lose sight of her beloved Thabong community, Annah is also providing food and training opportunities for some youngsters at a local athletics club. “I’m also training with them. I’m more than twice their age, but, for my 40th birthday next year, I hope to complete my first Comrades Marathon,” she says, laughing.
Annah says her only wish is that her mother, who instilled her own love for baking in her, could have been around to see her current success.
Live the Life You Love
by Laura Franz-Kamissoko
When she started feeling disenchanted with her job as a chemical researcher, Annah Lelimo knew it was time to pursue her dream of being a businesswoman and follow her passion for baking.
Annah is a petite, seemingly serious woman, until she starts talking about her bakery. Then her face lights up and she becomes very animated about the bread, scones, cakes and doughnuts she and her team at Thabong Bakery, based in Thabong Township in Welkom, bake every day.
“It was always my dream to start my own business one day, and succeed in it. So, when I started feeling disenchanted with my job as a researcher at a large Johannesburg-based chemical engineering firm, I knew the time had come to pursue my dream and to follow my passion. I used to bake a lot when growing up, so, instinctively, I knew I could run a very successful bakery,” explains the former chemical engineer.
Planning for Success
Annah strategised her business venture thoroughly, planning the move for two years before resigning from her full-time job. “During that time, I gathered as much information about the baking industry as I could, and even attended baking classes when on leave to improve my baking skills,” she notes.