“I think privilege is about what people have received, before they were even born. So privilege is setting white people ahead of black people even before the race starts. But what do we do now? How do we move forward from where we are now? Before we are people of colour, we are humans. So if you really care about a human, if I am hungry, don’t give me a fish, give me the tools to fish for myself,” says Zikhona Madubela – CEO and co-founder of Street Side Bakery.
We love coming to you with stories of empowered people doing inspiring work. Today, we are celebrating, above all things, the incredible power of community. We’re also introducing you to a phenomenal entrepreneur named Zikhona Madubela, who is changing lives one dairy-free biscuit and bowl of soup at a time.
“OoNdlangisa, Thole, Mfingo, Gqagqane, Lwandl’aluwelwa luwelwa izinkonjane zona zin amaphiko made”.
Otherwise referred to as ‘the clan of kindness’. This is the Xhosa clan name of Zikhona Madubela, 34-year-old CEO and co-founder of Streetside Bakery in Khayelitsha. “Just knowing I come from that clan makes me question my kindness every day and my intentions every day around who I am.”
We were fortunate to come across Zikhona and her bustling enterprise in the township of Khayelitsha in Cape Town during our research on Wonderbag – the revolutionary non-electric cooker that is changing the lives of women and children in impoverished areas across Africa. Through a serendipitous series of events we were led to Zikhona, with a Wonderbag in hand to donate to her cause and assist with her soup kitchen – a charitable side hustle she started during COVID-19 lockdowns to feed hungry children in the township. After meeting this industrious, passionate and generous self-starter, we knew we just had to share her story.
“You can. And you will.”
This very simple yet powerful mantra is one that Zikhona Madubela lives by. An entrepreneur, public speaker, events host, and advocate for social justice, Zikhona is passionate about empowering women and girls, and making black female voices heard.
Born in 1987 in Ngcobo, a town in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, she was raised in a loving and communal home where even estranged relatives and domestic staff were considered part of the family. “Umntu ngumntu ngabantu”, meaning “I am because you are”, is a fundamental element of Ubuntu – a philosophy and way of life that asserts that community, not a transcendent being, gives human beings their humanity. This is what Zikhona was raised to believe. And, more than that, raised to embody. Community was everything, and kindness and compassion were traits instilled in her from a very young age.
Kindness, compassion and truth.
“My mother is a woman with a strong voice,” explains Zikhona. “Her favourite words are: Speak your truth, even if your voice is shaking. She taught me that no matter how uncomfortable something is to somebody else, if it makes sense to you, it is your reality and your truth. She is a person of strength and confidence. My mother is not defined by anything. And she has imparted a lot of freedom to my siblings and I. Freedom and love, care and support.”
In 2015, Zikhona suffered a severe infection in her spine that led to her being wheelchair bound for months. The experience forced her to reflect on the lessons imparted to her by her mother and extended family. She considered her purpose in the world and came to the realisation that serving people was not only healing, but what she was called to do in this life. Surrounded by an impoverished community suffering injustices like poverty, lack of resources and poor infrastructure, Zikhona put the wheels in motion to start making some serious changes.
Street Side Bakery
Just two years later, in 2017, Street Side Bakery was established by Zikhona and business partner Luvuyo Goboza. It is the very first registered bakery in Khayelitsha to produce premium, yet affordable, low-lactose home-baked biscuits, muffins, bread and more. The bakery also serves as a vehicle to spread awareness about nutrition and lactose-intolerance – a very common GI complaint amongst adults. “When we started, we thought: What impact can we make on our community with our business?” explains Zikhona. “We already knew we were going to tick unemployment, we were going to tick skills development… but what impact in people’s lives were we going to make? Over 6.5 million South Africans (almost 11% of the population) are intolerant to lactose. Our recipes at Street Side Bakery don’t have milk or even eggs. We decided that we’re not only going to serve a product that is an alternative to baked goods with dairy in them, we’re also going to raise awareness about what lactose is, what the symptoms are, and how you can avoid it.”
Despite the challenges COVID-19 lockdowns presented, Street Side Bakery has survived because of the power of community. More than that, it has served as a source of inspiration to members of the local community, who have gone on to start their own enterprises. “They reach out to us a lot for advice,” says Zikhona. “We are so happy to offer them support and encouragement, as well as advice on business administration, networking and more. Khayelitsha has lots of people from all different walks of life who are struggling to do their best, but are all trying to help each other.”
When the South African government declared a hard lockdown on 27 March 2020 to stop the spread of COVID-19, disaster struck – particularly in communities where poverty already posed a problem. Khayelitsha was one such area. Around 3 million South Africans lost their jobs, and around 2 million of these individuals were women. “It really hit me when a woman I know very well with two kids explained that she hadn’t been paid and she didn’t know how she was going to feed her children,” recalls Zikhona.
In line with her commitment to serving others and spreading a culture of kindness, Zikhona started a soup kitchen in Khayelitsha. This community project, specifically targeted at feeding children, is still up and running over 18 months later. Since its inception, many of the initial volunteers – a small group of young women (some as young as 12 years old) – have begun to champion soup kitchens of their own around the community. “This is instilling kindness in them,” says Zikhona. “When they see all these kids that they are feeding, they feel like they are part of something important. They’ve got values. They’ve got worth.”
The power of community
Activist and civil rights leader, Coretta Scott King, once said: “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” The story of Zikhona Madubela, her Street Side Bakery, and soup kitchen are all perfect examples of how one cannot seek achievement for oneself, without considering the progress, prosperity, and aspirations of the community at large. We are all in this world together, and with each encounter we have, it is up to us to find out from those individuals how best we can help them.
So, how can YOU help?
“What Street Side Bakery needs to scale is a team, digital marketing support, and on-the-ground marketing material. We also need capital. We have a lot of products that we would like to test but we don’t have the necessary capital to do this.
We also need equipment to scale our business. We are working towards getting an oven right now that will allow us to bake more and increase our capacity. We have a new shipping container that we’ve just renovated that also needs a fridge, electricity, plumbing and shelves to stock our products.
We’d love to get a team of business administration interns on board too. We need a lot of support in terms of a team to help us structure and better position ourselves.”
Have an extra one of these items lying around unused?
• A delivery scooter or bicycle
We would like to appeal to our extended community to pay this incredible lesson forward, and keep the culture of kindness alive. If you can help with any of the needs above, please get in touch with Zikhona Madubela by calling +27 71 216 9229 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.