Makhamisa: Creating a truly African brand Terence Leluma is a born entrepreneur. In 2015, a chance conversation with his father-in-law led to the birth of Makhamisa Foods, a relish brand he describes as “loudly, proudly African”.

Terence Leluma, founder and managing director of Makhamisa Foods. Photo: Supplied/Stokvel Talk
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Meeting your future in-laws is probably a nerve-wracking experience for most people, but for Terrence Leluma, it was the spark that led to his ever-growing relish brand. During his first meet-up with his now father-in-law, he was treated to a meal that included the family relish.

“My father-in-law was the person who actually introduced me to this relish. On the day [we were introduced], I was blown away by how flavourful the vegetable relish was. We had it with braai meat.”

At the time, Leluma already part-owned a pub and electrical construction company. The taste of the relish, however, was so good that he saw the business opportunity immediately. He started questioning his father-in-law about the relish, and was told that is an old family recipe.

“He told me when he was growing up a young lad, his auntie used to go to the garden in the backyard and pick chili with onions and other vegetables, to be part of the main dish, pap.”

Leluma explains that in the old days, people would often try and enhance their plain fare with relish when they were unable to buy meat.

“[My father-in-law] told me they’ve been doing it in the family for over 30 years. I said, ‘wow, so no one in the family decided to create a brand out of this and take it to market?’ He said, ‘No, no one’.”

The beginning of Makhamisa Foods

Inspiration took a hold of Leluma, and after getting his father-in-law’s permission to turn the relish into a business, he started experimenting with the relish formula. His father-in-law had taught him how to make the relish, but the process was not conducive to business.

“I carry a chemistry background, [so I’m familiar with] lab testing and chemistry. I said that, hygienically, I don’t think this will work out, especially when [we] move to a large scale. Let’s change the process.”

The changes Leluma made was all about ensuring proper hygiene standard, but had also unintentionally changed the relish flavour. This did not slow him down. He ended up developing six relish samples.

“We bottled it in a set of naked bottles and labeled them according to the first six letters of the alphabet; A B C D E F. As part of our research, we took the samples for tasting to Bara taxi rank. When people started tasting, we asked ‘which one do you prefer?’ And they chose a specific [flavour].”

Once the testers chose the flavour, Leluma started calculating how much it would cost to produce the product on a bigger scale. His initial calculations were not competitive, stalling the project. After six more months, Leluma started going to market with an agripreneur friend, where they purchased their vegetables together, lowering the cost of the vegetables, and thus the total cost of production.

“That really helped us. We managed to cut the manufacturing cost from about R35 to about R15 or R16. And then we were competitive.”

It’s been more than six years since the Makhamisa Foods brand was started. Since then, Leluma has managed to expand the product range to include sauces as well, and the products have flavours like Nyana”, “Ncaaa” and “Tjerr”. A truly African brand, Leluma explains what he hopes to achieve with the company.

“Makhamisa is like a blank page where every black child who’s passionate about food can actually write their story, and where we share the platform or the space with them.”

To read the rest of Leluma’s story, and for some advice, click here.