1. The Epa! Story is nothing short of an entrepreneurial fairytale! Share the story of how you started your small business journey?
My wife, Marilu, presented our own choice of homemade sauce that we prefer with our food at home to the patrons at our restaurant in Mozambique. It soon became obvious that her sauce was preferred to the local original Mozambique Piri Piri sauce. The difference was that our sauce was lemon based, uncooked and made with a combination of balanced fresh ingredients with a distinct texture, as opposed to the Mozambique multi-ingredient piri piri sauce. This freshness of the sauce ensures that it can be applied for pre-, during and after cooking and is therefore multipurpose.
2. Tell us a few details about what makes your sauces so outstanding?
We often refer to our sauce as “kitchen Tools”, as it assists our clients- who we like to refer to as “Family”, to have local fresh chilies and herbs pre-cut and mixed to perfection! This assists in speedier cooking times, and meals flavored with healthy fresh ingredients. It literally is like having a fresh produce garden in your fridge!
We also package in glass to ensure freshness and the products contain no preservatives or colorants, with only 3 of the 14 products containing sugar. Pretty soon people started asking for it bottled and the orders spontaneously started increasing to the extent where we had to keep a different set of books just for the sauces!
3. Share a few details about how you’ve managed to grow from a small business to a recognized brand?
After seeing how many people were interested in our homemade sauces, we began doing extensive marketing research and soon identified suitable premises in March 2012, next to the N4 outside Sudwala, 33km’s from Nelspruit, and started production. In January 2017 we relocated the Epa! Industries factory to more suitable premises outside the beautifully serene town of Waterval Boven.
Since we started producing 7 years ago we decided on the direct sales approach to introduce the consumer to our unique range of products. We had to tackle all the local Farm and Craft markets to see if this would be a viable business as well as to supply the existing clients.
To grow the business and introduce new products, we expanded this form of marketing to a national level and we are currently doing almost all the major national Expo’s, Festivals, and markets. Epa! has won numerous awards since its inception including the award for Best Product at the well-known Gauteng Getaway Show 2019 at the Ticketpro Dome- and best stall at the National Cherry festival Ficksburg 2019! We also target selected outlets in the different regions to make Epa! readily available to our ever-growing consumer base. Proudly Lowveld produced Epa!, apart from Mpumalanga and the Lowveld, is also represented by agents and salespeople in Natal, Free State, Western and Eastern Province and available in selected deli’s, butchers, and retail outlets in these regions. Locally we are available in selected outlets in Waterval Boven, Nelspruit, Middelburg, Komatipoort, Ermelo, Hazyview, Hectorspruit and Steelpoort.
4. What types of sauces can we expect from Epa!?
Epa! sauces distinguishes itself from the competition’s products by being uncooked, lemon based, made with fresh ingredients and containing no preservatives. The idea behind the uncooked product range is to minimise the effort of food preparation and to have easy frying, cook-in, marinade, basting, salad dressing and table condiment all in one.
We have since expanded our range of sauces to 7 delicious fresh multi-purpose products as well as an amazing complimentary fresh Range of 7 multi-purpose Pesto/Pastes. The Sauces consist of:
- Chilli Lemon Zing Mild
- Hot & Xtra Hot
- The Jalapeno range Sweet Mild, Hot
- Lemon Zing Hot
- A deliciously fresh herb, lemon and mayonnaise ”liquid pesto” sauce, called LeMayoBasil.
- The Pesto/Paste range all consist of fresh herbs, garlic and – Feta, or Feta & Olive, or Feta & Sundried Tomato (award-winning product), or Crushed Olive (Olive Paste/Tapenade), or Chilli Hot, or Chilli Xtra hot and a very unique and popular ground Black Pepper.
5. What entrepreneurial advice would you give to South Africans or home chefs looking to start a business?
- Never negate quality in all aspects of your business. Stick to the “basics”
6. What else should we know about Epa!?
- We use locally produced fresh ingredients which is of the topmost quality, from lemon juice to chilli, sourced from all over the country.
- Truly “Proudly South African” from the raw goods through the formulas/recipes to the end product.
- All production and distribution are done locally from the factory and warehouse on the mountain overlooking the Elands River outside Waterval Boven.
- All the products/flavours that Epa! produces currently, came about from the abundance of quality fresh produce available in South Africa and is inspired by our natural environment.
- We have since extended the Epa! offerings to include a “farm feel” accommodation for visitors to the Lowveld called Ease @ Epa!-Valley…