Khayletisha Mall: Our Meeting with the Spinach King
After an early breakfast, the SMART team was off to meet the Spinach King. Lufefe Nomjana, or the Spinach King, owns and manages Espinaca Innovations, a company that produces spinach-based food, predominantly bread. The initial mission of the company was to provide nutritional food options for low-income families within Khayletisha, the largest township in South Africa and Lufefe’s home.
The Spinach King café is located in the Khayletisha Mall. The mall was not the typical mall we were used to, but a lively outdoor shopping center. Retailers and customers filled the sidewalks and the stores.
We quickly found the modern and bright green Spinach King café among the colorless mall stores. The café is located next to one of the mall’s entrances. This entrance has about 6,000 people go through it per day, and we could see streams of people filing in. Inside the store you can purchase breads, muffins, sandwiches, wraps, salads, juices and smoothies at the counter to enjoy at the outdoor café.
After introducing ourselves to the King, he began to tell us about his life. His charismatic charm entranced us all as he told his story of beginning with only 40 Rands, less than 3 U.S. dollars, and an idea, and growing into a company with a storefront location and café. After hearing about the company’s past, we sat down with Lufefe to talk about the company’s future. We questioned him about the company and his long-term goals for it. During our visit, many customers came to purchase breads and told us how the loved the Spinach King’s products. While Lufefe attended to his customers, we all took a turn on the store’s two stationary bikes that blends smoothies.
After almost two hours of conversation with Lufefe in the shade of the café, it was time to take a break. A large school group came to eat at the café and while they lined up to enjoy a delicious spinach burger and coffee catered by the Department of Coffee, we headed to the other stores in the mall to identify Lufefe’s competitors. We fought our way through the sea of people in Super Spar and Shoprite to see their bread products. Although there were many types of bread, none seemed to be as healthy or unique as Lufefe’s.
Finished looking at the Spinach King’s competitors, we returned to his café for our own lunch. We all happily munched on our own delicious spinach burgers and sipped on our cool spinach smoothies with the afternoon sun beating down on us.
Now that we had seen the café, it was time to see where his main ingredient, spinach, was cultivated. We all piled back in the van and headed out to a local community garden that produces the spinach for the café. Although the garden was closed by the time we reached it, we could still see the long rows of spinach through the gates.
Our last stop was to Espinaca Innovations’ original storefront, an express bakery. The store is just as brightly colored as the café in the Khayletisha Mall. There we finished up our questions for Lufefe and met his adorable son, the Spinach Prince.
Lufefe on the smoothie blender bike teaching the team about Espinaca innovations
Lufefe and the team at the Express Bakery
The Spinach King cafe
Returning to our hotel exhausted, we all discussed our thoughts about the company and its inspiring origins and mission.