Rising entrepreneur Nyaradzo Dhliwayo has spoken of how she started her thriving food bar business with a mere US$50 grocery money.
Dhliwayo (ND), founder of Yanaya: A Healthy Lifestyle, told Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN) on the platform In Conversation with Trevor how she started off by making food deliveries to clients from home.
She attributed her tenacity to her upbringing. Below are excerpts from the interview.
TN: Nyaradzo Dhliwayo, welcome to In Conversation with Trevor.
I am so happy to have you here. I love talking to young people, who are making waves and you are doing great stuff and I am looking forward to sharing this conversation with the rest of the world.
ND: Thank you very much for having me.
TN: So, you are 29 years old. You are the founder and CEO of Yanaya: A healthy Lifestyle; which is a food bar.
The first of its kind in Zimbabwe.
You are an award-winning creative designer, a photographer; you are many other things and we will get to talking about that.
How is it like living your life and doing what you are doing right now?
ND: I think it is an understanding of purpose in our lives, what God calls us to do, that every day you wake up and you are saying “God how are you going to order my steps” to fulfil the God-given calling that I have in my life.
TN: So God is important in your life?
ND: Very, very pivotal in my life and in everything that I do.
TN: Talk to me about that some more?
ND: Well I was raised Christian. My mom was a staunch Christian. I will tell you, growing up we did not watch secular television at our house.
We only watched Christian television. It was a very strict Christian home, so that shaped a lot of my views now, though at the time I did not like it.
It was boring, I did not go to any parties and other things that young people would do. I am grateful now for the way my mom brought us up.
TN: You are grateful now for the way your mother brought you up? In what way? How has that helped you in dealing with life?
ND: I think it has anchored my life, being anchored on principles that I think are helping me in all the endeavours that we are doing.
One of my mom’s favourite statements is that “In everything that you do, do it with all your might and all your power”.
I was very young and she would say stuff like “spirit of excellence; if Jesus passes by here is He going to be happy?”
So it rings at the back of my mind that everything that I am doing, even though someone is not going to come and check, but God being also there, He’s going to come and check and I should make sure that God is happy with everything that I do.
TN: I think Jesus is happy with what you do.
ND: He must be happy and I am sure my mom is proud.
TN: That is good. So share with us that first moment when the idea to start Yanaya Food Bar & Restaurant came, how did it happen and how did it grow on you? Do you recall?
ND: I remember. When I was about 18 years old, a friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer, well he was diagnosed earlier when he was around 16 years old, so for three years he battled with cancer.
Towards the end of his life they recommended to him to go on a plant-based diet.
So as a way of motivating him to say you can do this, we all then started doing a plant-based diet in our food.
Unfortunately he did not make it, but post him dying, it was something that I then said I am going to do it in remembrance of my friend.
Also being an Adventist, we are very big on healthy eating.
We also come from the other side of Samora Machel, we cannot afford going to the other side of Samora Machel to get something that is healthy from the other side of Samora. It was not easily accessible.
So I always said I was going to create somewhere where I can enjoy eating plant-based food that would be easy on my pocket.
TN: The name Yanaya?
ND: It is two-pronged. It literally just means “mvura yanaya” (it has rained/freshness has come).
It is also Hebrew, meaning an answered prayer.
So when it then finally happened to say now we can open something, just to say God I have had this prayer for the longest time, it is, it has been answered.
Also we are bringing freshness to everyone.
TN: So it started off as helping a friend? Standing with a friend? When did it become a business idea?
ND: I like money. I went to school in South Africa, I was at Stellenbosch (University).
Whilst I was at school, this was after my friend had died, I was a vegan.
So we had a lot of options of places to go out to eat as students, we were not cooking a lot.
When I was done with school I came back to Zimbabwe, like I said coming from the other side of Samora, I did not have anywhere I could go and eat, and not eat fries and coleslaw or a Greek salad.
So it was then that I thought there was an opportunity in the market that I could capitalise on and create something.
TN: Did you find people encouraging you? Did you find people saying no it cannot be done? Talk to me about that?
ND: It was a balance. You had people that would say that people would only buy sadza, this is not a need, this is a luxury.
They would say that people are not going to spend money on a smoothie, and they’d rather buy water or buy Coca-Cola not a smoothie.
I was also encouraged by other friends, because when we started the business, we did not just start with the restaurant, I was doing home deliveries from my flat.
So I would cook at home. I knew a couple of people that were vegetarians and would do lunch deliveries around town.
TN: What is it that made you? I mean you were initially helping a friend.
You then think there is a wind of opportunity there. What is it that triggered it to you to go for it even with people saying it could not be done?
ND: There were people that needed the product. It was a solution.
For myself first. Something that I could eat and enjoy; and also, to check, look, do you like this?
They liked it, so every other day I would wake up and I would have 10 orders/10 plates and I would deliver.
The next day it would be 12 orders and I would do it.
So that was the push-factor to say actually I could do it even though there were naysayers, but there was a need in the market for people that were looking for something healthy.
TN: When did you then pivot from doing it from home? Perhaps before I go there, where were you working? Did you have another job when you were doing this? Talk to me about that?
ND: Yes. When I came back from South Africa, I came back and I started working at Seedco.
I was the digital marketing officer there.
I am really grateful for my experience there because it taught me a lot of things that I am now implementing as we are growing Yanaya.
I spent three years at Seedco. The three years that I was at Seedco, that is when I was doing the deliveries.
TN: Wow. For the entire three years you were doing food delivery?
TN: When did you then decide enough of Seedco, they had done wonderfully with you but you then were ready to step out? When did you do that?
ND: Like I said we did not start with an official restaurant.
We first did a booth, in simple terms musika.
It was an open bar at Joina City. We would cook whilst you are watching.
It was something that people had never seen, so it was fascinating.
We ran the bar for seven months and the entire time I was still at Seedco because I was scared to leave my job, it was a good paying job.
I was young and then I was going to do this, which we were not sure it was going to work, because you still had a lot of people that were saying it was not going to go anywhere, they would say we have seen people try things, people’s spending power is limited so it was not going to go anywhere.
That is what they would say. I stayed at Seedco for seven months whilst we ran the bar and I only resigned in February 2020.
TN: I read somewhere that this whole enterprise is now the talk of the town?
If not the talk of the country? It all started with your grocery money? US$50.
ND: Yes yes.
TN: Talk to me about that?
ND: It started when I was doing the home deliveries. We did not have any capital, we had nothing.
I had US$50 that I had, went and bought grocery to cook for the next day’s deliveries.
Sold those deliveries, went and bought groceries again. So we were just building, building up.
TN: You are basically saying to somebody who’s out there, start where you are?
ND: Start where you are. Start with what you have. You could have a million dollars and yet always have excuses.