Nourishment rises from ashes

Yebo Freshs Nosiseko Siswana and Siphesihle Blayi doing their rounds on the streets of Imizamo Yethu.

An enterprising new business venture has risen from the ashes of last year’s devastating fire in Imizamo Yetho.

The fire on March 11, 2017 displaced more than 10 000 people, but one of the stand-out aspects of the disaster was how Hout Bay residents pulled together to help the victims wherever they could.

Among them were a team of volunteers working closely with Thula Thula Hout Bay, the non-profit specialising in relief efforts in the wake of fires.

Having studied Thula Thula’s operations principles, including the use of apps to register fire victims and the distribution of foodstuffs, clothing and other basic necessities, six of these volunteers have come together to form a new company.

Yebo Fresh is a new online grocery shopping service that delivers affordable fresh and dry produce to families living in informal settlements.

In addition to the core group of six permanent employees from Imizami Yethu and Hangberg, Yebo Fresh provides a stipend to members of these communities who are able to provide transport and delivery services, thereby creating employment opportunities.

Company chief executive, Jessica Boonstra, designed a link that takes customers to an online catalogue where they can place an order.

This technology allows Yebo Fresh to track what has been ordered and delivered.

“Thula Thula used this technology for registration during the fires, and so we adapted it to track our clients’ orders,” Ms Boonstra said.

Products manager, Nosiseko Siswana, explained that food was sourced from major retailers and wholesalers, as well the Cape Town fresh market in Epping and a butchery in Wynberg.

“We are trying to source the cheapest products on the market,” she said.

Ms Boonstra said the company was aimed at people who do a “monthly shop” and was created along the lines of stokvels whereby members of the community club together to buy produce and household necessities.

Yebo Fresh has done three shopping runs to date and has registered 85 customers between Imizamo Yethu and Hangberg.

“We only launched in September, but we are growing thanks to word of mouth,” she said.

Customer relations manager, Siphesihle Blayi, who is studying business management, said customers found the online shopping experience convenient.

“The goods are also being sold by faces they know in the community, which creates trust. People also like the idea of receiving their groceries at home in the morning. It also means they don’t have to travel to Wyn-
berg every month to do their shopping.”

Ms Siswana agreed, saying that the system appealed to the older generation in particular.

“The shops are very busy at the end of the month after everyone has been paid. What often happens is that people have to choose between buying food or doing washing or household chores. This service means that they can focus on what they have to do at home,” she said.

Grandmother Mildred Makabeni, 70, has been using Yebo Fresh for several months.

“Everything is alright with them. When we buy food, it’s now delivered to our home. It’s changed my life, because we are old and can no longer travel to Wynberg. I’m actually wanting to buy more things from them,” Ms Makabeni said.

An added advantage is that people no longer have to spend money on taxi fare to get to major shopping hubs.

“We also don’t waste because people are only buying what they need,” Ms Boonstra said.

With spaza shops a large part of daily life in informal settlements, the Sentinel asked whether there were any concerns that the service offered by the new company might encroach on their business.

“The fact is that we are not here all the time, so we are not trying to take business away from the spaza shops. They provide a daily service that we don’t,” Ms Boonstra said.

Mr Blayi pointed out that Yebo Fresh had in fact been engaging with spaza shop owners to establish whether they themselves would like to buy groceries in bulk, as they were often inconvenienced by having to travel to buy stock.

Spaza shop owner Temesgen Maga believes making use of the company’s services is a good idea.

“We are spending money to go far to the cash and carry stores to buy stock. We waste so much on petrol and are wasting time. Buying our stock from the company is better,” he said.

Looking ahead, Ms Siswana said she believed the future to be a bright one for the company.

“Seeing that we have more business coming our way, I see us growing and networking to other parts of Cape Town and the Western Cape. I think one of the most exciting things for me is that we also training young people to go out and create jobs for themselves. It’s exciting to watch young people develop,” she said.

One of those to have joined Yebo Fresh is Neveline Clarke, who is now in charge of the Hangberg operation after initially providing a distribution service to residents.

“Customers are grateful for the service as it means they no longer have to go to Wynberg. It is something new to Hout Bay, and it’s not just for the white community. People are excited about this,” she said.

Mr Blayi said the most satisfying aspect of the business was that it was helping people in terms of entrepreneurship.

“It’s allowing young people to invest in other young people,” he