Ndaya Lukoji; a graduate of the University of Pretoria, is the founder of the Waffle Palace, a Manzini-based gourmet restaurant that specializes in waffles concepts (unique variations to your everyday waffles). The restaurant was nominated for the Best Specialty Restaurant under the International Dining Awards 2021

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By Phesheya Mkhonta

Armed with a BA Honors in International Relations from the University of Pretoria, Ndaya Lukoji was ready and looking forward to taking on the corporate world. However, her struggles with securing employment led to her taking a leap of faith and venturing into business full time by launching The Waffle Palace, a Manzini-based gourmet restaurant that specializes in waffles, ice cream, and milkshakes. Here, she shares her story with us:

Who is Ndaya Dorcas Lukoji?

Ndaya Lukoji is a female entrepreneur who has lived her whole life in the kingdom of Eswatini. I did my primary and high school in Eswatini and later went to pursue my tertiary studies at the University of Pretoria where I graduated with an Honored degree in Politics and International Relations. I later went to intern at the United Nations in South Africa and a research firm called In On Africa where we focused on market research and business development. I did these internships in tandem with running The Waffle Palace as a home-based, delivery-only business which I started during the final year of my studies.

How did the idea behind The Waffle Palace come about and how did you bring it to fruition as an actual business?

It started in 2017 as a home-based delivery-only business. I started it during my final year of studies. As the days progressed I felt I need to take a leap of faith and set up a store with seating spaces so that customers have the full Waffle palace experience hence we opened our first store in December 2019.

What makes The Waffle Palace Co. special?

The Waffle Palace is special due to its unique menu and product offering. We pride ourselves on being Eswatini’s first waffles eatery/brand.

The Waffle Palace was impressively nominated for the Best Specialty Restaurant under the International Dining Awards 2021, how did this come about?

Our international Dining Award came as a surprise, but it is one we are proud of. I’m sure the way it came about is through food specialists all over the world who are always on the lookout for unique and interesting food businesses, we so happened to be one they liked and they duly reached out to us about the nomination.

The Covid-19 pandemic affected all businesses negatively, particularly those within the hospitality industry, how did you navigate through these challenging times, and what has been the biggest lesson(s) learned?

We navigated the Covid-19 pandemic challenges by learning to adapt to the constant and sudden changes and also through learning to use limited resources to make things work. It was really difficult to weather this storm at first but it taught me personally as a business owner, to stay steadfast. The silver lining of the situation is that at the height of the pandemic I got a better understanding of my customers which helped me to redefine my target market. I also got to expand in my marketing (specifically online marketing) as people spent more time on social media.

What are your thoughts on the local food industry? How do you think it can still improve?

The local food industry needs more research. We need more information on the local food industry to be readily available. It is very difficult for an investor or future food entrepreneur to understand the dynamics of the industry in Eswatini while starting out. Not much information is available online in the form of tangible resources, so it gets hard to make informed decisions when looking to start a food business here. For example, after coming back from school, I had a hard time figuring out if opening a physical location would be a good move or not because I struggled to find adequate resources. However, I had to go with my gut and my general knowledge and observation of the country because I grew up here. But the availability of information would go a long way to assisting young people on whether or not it’s viable to engage in their intended business, and also how and where.

How do you define success for yourself as an entrepreneur?

Success for me lies in the ability to inspire others to be fearless. Entrepreneurship is not an easy route to take nor is it for the faint-hearted. It may look easy and fancy from the outside, but it also comes with all of the buzz-kill words you have heard or read about; such as the business being daunting, dealing with discouragement, fear, disappointment, being time-intensive, and all that, but equally or more so, it can also be very rewarding.  I’m not yet at the “rewarding” phase, personally, I’m still working towards it…hahaha.

What advice would you give other young entrepreneurs (particularly Women) starting out in business? Perhaps advice that you wish someone had shared with you while starting out?

The advice I wish someone had shared with me while starting out is first to take risks but to calculate them first. I sort of jumped into the whole entrepreneurship thing overnight. It’s not something I had initially planned. It. An idea came to me and the next day, I started. I didn’t plan or research but I found myself here and it worked for me but it is never easy nor ideal navigating something you did not plan well in advance for. However, I know better now and I’ve worked hard to improve in the areas I lacked. I’ve taken multiple online short business courses, to equip myself with the inner workings of the business. I read a lot on business improvement, as well as reading lots of materials on the food industry. I’m always on the lookout for something new and something creative to bring into my business. So I would also advise aspiring entrepreneurs to stay curious and never stop learning.

Please kindly share business contact and physical address details, trading hours, and social media handles.

The Waffle Palace is based in Manzini. We are located just before the George Hotel opposite GALP Filling Station. After the New FNB building. Shop No 30.

We operate from 11.30 to 5 pm on Mondays and from Tuesday to Saturday, we are open from 9:30 am to 5 pm. We are closed on Sundays.

You can contact us on WhatsApp or call +268 7801 2577. We have a WhatsApp menu you can browse through and order directly, for either sit-in, take-away collection, or delivery.

You can also find and follow us on Facebook and Instagram @thewafflepalace

Thank you Ndaya for chatting with us. All the best for all your future business endeavors.

It was my pleasure. Thank you!

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