1. What made you decide to start a new business during lockdown? What was that process like?
I lost my job as a result of the pandemic – the hospitality industry was one of the sectors that got hit the hardest. I didn’t have any income, but I tried to keep my head up and come up with ideas. My first idea was to start a delivery service for small businesses, to help them out while helping myself, but I realised quickly that I wouldn’t enjoy something like that. Then, one day, I was casually making my own condiments at home, as I always do, and I thought, “Why don’t I become the small business myself?” And that’s how Lapa Artisan Condiments started.
At first I was uneasy about my choice of range because these aren’t your everyday “basic” condiments. But I guess that’s where the problem is – most condiments that are commonly mass-produced are either bland or just unpleasant. So I got on with designing my labels and sold my first few bottles to people at my mom’s office. The feedback I got was incredible; that’s when I knew I was on the right track with the flavours. Since then, our customers’ feedback has been hugely positive and inspiring.
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2. Between your involvement with Nala juices and Lapa condiments, you’re clearly passionate about using whole, fresh ingredients that are full of flavour. Where did your interest in fresh juices come from, and how did that lead to condiments?
Nala Juice Company is owned by a friend of mine, William. His dedication to using fresh ingredients to maintain a good-quality product is definitely what inspired Lapa. William was the first to find out about my range of condiments, and to taste them. That’s where our collaboration came from: we’re both passionate about creating products that use whole ingredients to their full potential, not adding any extras to them, keeping them as clean as can be and tasty to the core. Lapa and Nala seemed to be on the same page in terms of our beliefs and standards, so it made sense to collaborate.
3. Tell us more about your condiments. Which are your favourites? How do you like to use them?
All Lapa condiments are bold in different ways – and, if I say so myself, too delicious! I think they’re perfect with any dish. One of my favourites is the Green Chilli Paste, which is great on anything from scrambled eggs to lamb curry and even pasta dishes. My other favourite, which I like to call “The GOAT”, is the Peri-Peri Oil – a blend of spices, fresh garlic and chilli, mixed with rendered chicken fat. It’s amazing on meat, in a marinade or added to a warm bowl of noodles. I also love the Hot Sauce, Smoked Peppa Ketchup and the Sweet & Spicy Asian sauce – in that order.
The Smoked Peppa Ketchup is by far the best-selling condiment we have; it’s an easy, smooth alternative to tomato sauce.
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4. Setting up a business must have been difficult – but what was your overall experience during lockdown? How did you stay sane and inspired?
Starting a business during lockdown was very difficult because I was basically jobless – and to start a business you need money. That, for me, was a huge battle, especially when it came to keeping up with other costs and living expenses. To be honest, it’s still a bit of a battle. Fortunately the support for #smallbusiness and #BlackOwnedBusiness grew throughout lockdown, which boosted our sales. That’s what inspired me, along with all the feedback from our customers – there was a certain kind of encouragement in the situation, assuring me that Lapa had a chance.
5. What can we look forward to seeing you do next?
I recently started to get into the private chef business – I want to share my knowledge and skills with people, and create amazing experiences. I’m also working on a digital cookbook for Lapa, which will include all the recipes that I’ve tried my condiments with. The plan was to have it ready by December, but it’s taking longer than expected, so it’ll likely be out in early 2021. The recipe book, my work as a private chef and ensuring that Lapa is doing well are my biggest priorities right now. I’d like to see Lapa on supermarket shelves all over Africa and the world one day. For the moment, I feel like our range is complete – but who knows, we might expand and try new things in future. Keep your eye on our Instagram page!
To see what else Tiisetso gets up to, follow him on Instagram.