Since March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown was first implemented locally, many residents were caught off guard with the amount of spare time they suddenly had on their hands. People who would usually spend full days at the office were now suddenly stranded at home, where entertainment options were quickly becoming scarce and repetitive. However, one Windhoek resident saw the lockdown as an opportunity to transform his passion into a sustainable small business.
This business is The Breadsmith, and it is the brainchild of 38-year-old Nico Smit, who told Inside Business he began baking bread when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. A holder of a Master’s Degree in Public Policy and Management from the University of York in the United Kingdom, Smit has a full-time job at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST).
And, because of the restricted movements
as a result of last year’s lockdown, Smit had a little extra time on his hands, which he used to try out new bread recipes. It wasn’t long before he had so much bread on hand that he started giving it away to family members and close friends.
However, Smit says he soon realised a silver lining to the pandemic, which was a trend by many locals to render more support to small home-grown businesses in local communities, thereby helping these businesses grow. But growth is not what The Breadsmith is after, but rather a niche market focussing on quality rather than quantity. “Our market is not geared towards massive businesses, but rather to the smaller ones, often those operating in the informal sector,” observes Smit.
What makes his bread unique is that he only uses traditional stoneground flour for all his baked goods. “The kind I use comes from a small mill in South Africa. I buy the flour, which is three different kinds, namely white bread flour, whole wheat flour and rye flour from the company that distributes Eureka Mills’ flour locally. This company is called Robiati Distribution”, he adds.
Smit explains that total capital outlay for the business was in the range of N$35 000. Another reason he opted to keep his business small for now was the reduced domestic economic activity in the country exacerbated by Covid-19. This, he says, made him hesitant to approach a commercial bank for a loan, and he instead sourced the start-up business capital through personal savings.
This means that currently The Breadsmith is a home-based micro-bakery operating out of Smit’s home in Windhoek’s Dorado Park. “I bake the bread in the mornings before work starts, and normally bring it with me to the office where most people come and pick it up. I started very small. I used the oven and fridge in my kitchen to keep dough cold, and to do the baking. In the beginning, I mixed all of the dough by hand. As demand for my bread grew, I realised that I needed a larger oven that would allow me to bake more bread,” he narrates. Eventually, Smit aims to convert his garage into a dedicated space for the micro-bakery. He intends to operate from there for the foreseeable future.
Although The Breadsmith is a micro-one-person operation, Smit still manages to bake an impressive 65 to 70 loaves of bread, 40 chocolate brownies, and 50 scones per week with the equipment he has on hand.
While the majority of his customers are private individuals, some of whom have standing weekly bread orders, Smit also daily supplies The Cups coffee shop and Droombos restaurant. “Ideally, I would like to be able to supply more coffee shops and restaurants. I am, however, constantly looking into how I can improve my productivity by investigating new techniques for baking bread that would allow me to kick out more bread daily,” he states.
He adds that for March and April this year, The Breadsmith doubled its revenue from November 2019, which is not a bad sign for a home-based single-person micro bakery.
With the revenue earned, Smit repays the personal savings loans from himself and his wife, while the rest of the money is reinvested back into the bakery to shore up its cash reserves.
Smit admits that he has found his passion, and with this he aims to build a lasting business, which he confessed will be his legacy. For this, he is prepared to invest time and energy without immediately seeing his pockets bulge.
His business journey has not all been rosy, as some of the numerous challenges he faced with such a small operation included obtaining equipment, sufficient operating space and of course securing the financing to start the business. With this said, Smit advised fellow entrepreneurs to start small and to remain small for as long as possible until they have perfected their product or service. -firstname.lastname@example.org