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The Bread Box Bakery, one of the first small start-up businesses to receive funding from Vodacom Financial Services through its VodaLend Business Term Advance, is now playing a crucial community-assistance role in the COVID-19 lockdown crisis by feeding over 100 desperate children in the Midrand region.
The Bread Box Bakery’s founder, Matlhogonolo Ledwaba, says that the initial financial backing from VodaLend was crucial to the success of her company. “Our bakery business started in my kitchen in early 2017. Soon we got to a situation where our domestic stove could not cope with the growing volume of orders. After appealing unsuccessfully for funding from the banks, we approached VodaLend. Their requirements were simple and the application process was online, quick and user-friendly.”
With funding secured, Matlhogonolo was able to purchase an industrial scale oven as well as equipment needed to start a baking school for the local community.
“There is no doubt that VodaLend has made a material difference to our business. We have been able to expand our product range to include bread, cakes, rolls and desserts. The increase in business means we can employ more people and our customer base now includes both retail outlets in the area and corporate catering companies. The VodaLend team as part of the funding programme has provided ongoing support and advice, which has been invaluable,” she said.
Matlhogonolo has also set up a group called “Tuesday Powertalk” as a vital process of collaborating with other SMME’s in the area to build her contact base and to exchange business skills and ideas.
COVID-19 lockdown delivers an unexpected blow
Matlhogonolo explains, “I nearly shut down. But then I thought of all the people relying on me - my employees and the desperate kids out there. Bread is an essential basic so I just had to press on no matter the challenges.”
Together with other companies in the food business, she has repurposed her “Tuesday Powertalk” group which now meets every week online and plans the distribution of food to orphanages. “Other suppliers add meat, vegetables and other food items to my baked items. The orphanages come and collect the food, which now feeds over a 100 children. They are desperate and I cannot let them or my employees down,” explains Matlhogonolo.
Mariam Cassim, Chief Officer of Vodacom Financial Services says, “We recognise the financial challenges that SMMEs face in the current economy and we are committed to providing solutions to meet their needs. During this lockdown period, we have put our focus on supporting essential service businesses throughout South Africa.”
VodaLend Business Term Advance is a disruptive SMME business funding solution, where applicants can apply online, furnish basic business details, and receive a response within hours.
“The simple application process, which requires no paperwork, no waiting or visiting a branch, was refreshing. The VodaLend team has become part of our Bread Box Bakery family,” says Matlhogonolo.
Not just funding – additional business support
Support from Vodacom Financial Services extends beyond just loans. Mariam says: “Many businesses struggle to navigate the complex financial environment in which they operate. They need assistance with financial literacy, financial planning, legal backing and effective money management. The under-serviced small business market is full of untapped potential and allows innovative funders, who are able to tailor business-specific solutions, to help these companies reach their full potential.”
Matlhogonolo is confident that her company will survive COVID-19. “We’re already starting to work with Vodacom in the contactless QR payment and e-commerce space and planning for a new environment beyond this pandemic. This is making us stronger and more resilient. Even now we are working a couple of extra days a week to keep up with demand and our productivity levels are improving.”
“We are proud of Matlhogonolo and her team,” says Mariam. “This is a perfect example of what we at Vodacom Financial Services are trying to do: identify, financially support and assist small businesses with a range of needs. This sector is crucial to the overall success of South Africa’s economy and we believe that it is vital to play a role in supporting such businesses.”