The story of Ninjani Bakery is mainly a love story that involves good food. Nina Firas, a French national met her partner Jonas while working on a Malaria programme in the country. Jonas is a German national who arrived in the Kingdom in 2013. Their business was conceived when Nina was homesick during the COVID-19 pandemic period and was missing a good French loaf. Jonas surprised her by baking her a beautiful sourdough. This is when they convinced each other to give it a shot as a business, and they have not looked back ever since.

By Phesheya Mkhonta

Q: First off, please tell us about yourselves. 

A: My name is Nina and I am 28 years old. I am originally from France, I grew up in Gabon, in Port-Gentil. I have a background in Global Health and I studied at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in London. I came to the Kingdom of Eswatini because of my job, working on malaria, about 1 year and a half ago. It’s where I met Jonas. My parents own a restaurant in the South of France, and my dad is a chef. I guess that’s why I’ve always been passionate about food!

Jonas, 32, comes from West Germany. Jonas is a mushroom farmer and owner of Fungis Finest. He arrived in the Kingdom of Eswatini in 2013 as a backpacker traveling to Southern Africa. Jonas intended to spend 2 days in the Kingdom but never left. For nearly 6 years Jonas built and ran a lodge near Malolotja, giving his guests a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Q: You are both not from the Kingdom, why did you settle in Eswatini, and how has the experience been thus far?

A: For both of us, Eswatini was an unexpected destination, none of us really knew the country until we got here. What has kept us here? The beautiful mountains of Malolotja and Sibebe, the kindness of Emaswati, the climate, and the opportunities for creating and innovating! 

Q: When was Ninjani Bakery established, and what was the inspiration behind it?

A: Ninjani Bakery was established in November 2021. In France and Germany, where we are from, bread, GOOD bread, is a staple food. We eat it pretty much at every meal. There are so many varieties in bakeries back home. Once, Nina was a little bit homesick and was missing a good French loaf. I tried to surprise her by baking her a beautiful sourdough. It did the job 😉

Q: What are the core products you produce, and what sets you apart?

A: Our core products are French and German bread. We offer the iconic French baguette, 2 different rustic sourdough loafs, and a multi-grain loaf that is probably our most popular loaf. For those with a sweet tooth, we offer cinnamon rolls which seems to be winning the heart of all our customers. What sets us apart is the quality of our products. We produce high-quality, artisanal products, made by hand. The whole process of production can sometimes take up to 48 hours.

Q: How has the reception been for your baked produce?

A: Our products have been very well received. We started small, supplying friends and neighbours. Our orders are consistent, and the demand is slowly increasing.

Q: We know you are currently available at Farm to Table in Ezulwini, do you have plans to extend your distribution, if so, where and how?

A: Definitely. At the moment, not only do we supply Farm to Table Ezulwini, but we also supply their newly opened shop in Mbabane. We are at the Ekupheleni Farmer’s Market every last Saturday of the month and sell out in less than an hour! We also deliver to individual customers in Pine Valley all the way to Eveni and other neighborhoods. We intend to supply more businesses. Some cafes and restaurants are keen to have Ninjani’s Bakery products in their kitchens. However, we are not going to go too large scale. We want to focus on quality rather than quantity.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in establishing and running the business?

A: Accounting!! When thinking about opening a baking business, we only thought about the fun part (for us). Baking, customer relationships, branding, etc. However, none of us likes doing accounting and getting disciplined to do it was very crucial for the growth of our business. Though, we still hate it! Is there any good affordable accountant out there…hahaha?

Q: Any tips for young entrepreneurs who are inspired by what you do, what would you say to them as a “golden rule” to the business?

A: Do not give up? But that’s a bit too easy to say. I guess what we are trying to say is, there are going to be difficult moments, where you are going to feel like quitting, but it is all part of the hard work in the process. Either way, you will get rewarded, you will either succeed, or you would have learned a valuable lesson!

In closing, please tell us something people do not know about the both of you.

The story of Ninjani Bakery is mainly a love triangle between good food and the two of us. It’s all about love!

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