School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Entrepreneur Attributes Success to Science Grounding at UKZN

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‘Innovative scientists are key in building resilient communities,’ says Ms Tracy Vongai Mapfumo (29), a passion-driven entrepreneur, food innovator, crop scientist and the founder of Eny’s Treats Pty Ltd.

Mapfumo graduated with a BSc honours degree in Agriculture (Plant Science) from UKZN in 2015. When she was unable to renew her study permit to pursue a master’s degree at the University, the Zimbabwean did not let disappointment get in her way but turned her hand to gaining five years’ work experience in indigenous plants that have commercial value. ‘I have always wanted to see Zimbabwean food being transformed into competitive products on the market,’ she said.

Eny’s Treats – named after Mapfumo’s late mother Eniya Dengu who nurtured her entrepreneurial skills – was founded in October 2018. It specialises in healthy snacks targeting the upmarket health-conscious consumer who enjoys a nutritious treat, or has nut allergies or is gluten intolerant. The snacks are a variety of seed bars, balls and seed butter. Made from sesame, sunflower and flax seeds, the key ingredients are sourced from local, rural small-scale farmers and producers.

‘Seeds have a wide array of nutritional benefits,’ explained Mapfumo. ‘Have you ever wondered why a complex plant develops from a very tiny seed? It is because as small as they are, they contain all the nutrients required for the incredible transformation from a seed to a plant. It is not surprising that seeds are extremely nutritious and are regarded as a complete food.

‘Seeds are great sources of fibre. They contain healthy unsaturated fats. They have several vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. And they have a low glycaemic index (slow release of energy).’

Recently, Eny’s Treats partnered with the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund to train rural women and youth on the value-addition of natural food resources.

Mapfumo participated in the FemBioBiz Accelarator programme as well as Youth Connekt programme where she was awarded the First Runner Up Prize for Mashonaland Central. She was also the Start-Up Business Winner for CBZ Youth Entrepreneurs Programme 2019. In 2021 she was the winner of a TV programme Ndine Thaza.

In celebration of Women’s Month and the contribution inspiring UKZN graduates are making to economic entrepreneurship, Mapfumo will share her secrets of entrepreneurial success and the role of science and innovation in building resilience via an interactive online discussion on 2 August.

Click here to register and listen to her story.

Words: Sally Frost

Photograph: Supplied