Pensioner bakes her way out of poverty
After years stuck in the same tired routine, eeking out a modest living selling fruit and veg on the streets of Francistown, Margaret Maphosa realised she wanted more from life.
“Tomatoes were always out of stock, even in those days,” remembers the 67-year-old with a toothy grin.
Desperate for something fulfilling and financially rewarding, the Ramokgwebana native got the life-changing spark she craved in 2015, stumbling upon a ‘Nyeletso Lehuma’ advert in the Daily News.
The ad invited those living in ‘abject poverty’ – i.e. earning less than P300 a month – to contact Francistown City Council with viable business ideas they would like to try.
Even though she was nearing the age of retirement and had no previous experience with baking, the mother-of-six ventured down to council’s Civic Centre headquarters to enquire about opening a bakery.
“I explained what I wanted to do; they gave me some forms to fill. It was a quick and easy process. They then came to asses my place in Monarch, Area 2, and saw I fit the criteria and the house would be suitable for a bakery,” continues Maphosa.
She was then enrolled for three weeks training at Pick n Pay, thrust into a classroom-like environment for the first time in close to 50 years.
“I was starting from scratch. I knew nothing about baking but I was like a young child hungry to learn and listened carefully to the trainer’s instructions. It was scary but exciting!”
On completing the course, council gave Maphosa P15, 000 to start-up her business, with the bulk of the cash going towards an oven, two tables for preparing bread and 10 bags of flour.
She was also allocated a local primary school to supply.
And thus, from such humble beginnings, Maggie’s Bakery was born.
“This bakery has changed my life. My youngest two children are at school in Gaborone; I help them pay for rent and transport thanks to this business, which I was never in a position to do before,” says the old lady, struggling to find the right words to express exactly how happy this makes her.
“I am so grateful to the Council for this opportunity, it has honestly transformed my fortunes,” she adds, noting she was recently able to build a ‘two-and-a-half’ back home with her bakery profits.
As well as bread, she specialises in magwinya, scones, mapakiwa – “With no oil,” she points out proudly – and a variety of muffins.
Maggie’s Bakery, which still operates out of Maphosa’s home, continues to meet all of Monarch Primary school’s doughy needs and also caters for church events, while people regularly pop into the premise to buy bread.
Having started out solo, to keep up with the demand, Maphosa now has an assistant, passing on her expertise to a young woman in the neighbourhood.
“I taught her how to bake; she helps me – I’m not as young as I used to be!” she chuckles.
However, although 70 is on the horizon, determined to make the most of this golden chapter in her life, Maphosa shows no signs of slowing down.
Exhibiting at the Northern Trade Fair as part of the City of Francistown Council’s Home Economics division, the brilliant baker described the experience as eye-opening.
“It has taught me the importance of marketing my company and packaging my products professionally,’ she reflects, the interview coming to an end as Maphosa’s small stall becomes overrun with interested school students.