‘Retrenchment was exactly what I needed to get going!’

Neliswa Mntungwa with happy kota customer, Khulekani Msamo.

Neliswa Mntungwa with happy kota customer, Khulekani Msamo.

Published Apr 13, 2024


Durban — Neliswa Mntungwa always knew she did not want to live her entire life in the corporate world, and wanted to be self-employed.

The romance of making more money than she was at her job was appealing. While she was still working she would often experiment with ventures on the side, but something always held her back.

Until 2019, when she was retrenched from her job in the corporate world.

“I was in my eighth year when I got retrenched. For me that was the defining moment because there was no excuse for me not to pursue my dream,” said the 35-year-old from Pietermaritzburg.

“It got me going!”

Mntungwa was attracted to the concept of kota – a quarter of bread with fillings that include cheese, meat and vegetables, according to customers’ desires.

The venture took off in 2019 when she served her first customers from a gazebo on Oribi Road in Pelham under the name Kota 2 Nice.

Then came the 2020 Covid lockdown, which Mntungwa used as an opportunity.

“I had just started and was operating by myself and so when there were no operations there was not any pressure on me,” she said.

During lockdown, Mntungwa continued to deliver to her customers, which she believes was crucial in building customer loyalty and brand recognition. Operating from her home had its limitations, and Mntungwa knew that.

“When Msunduzi Municipality opened applications for business accommodation in Imbali township, I took a chance and my application was successful,” she said, working on an order in her stall, where she prepares food for deliveries and for walk-in customers.

She was approached by the organisers of the Jozi Kota Festival to take part in the exhibition, something which she says gave her a sense of belonging.

“Now I get people coming from Gauteng or Harrismith making a pit stop here for a snack on their way to Durban, and that is very fulfilling for me because it indicates that my efforts are recognised,” Mntungwa said.

“That is why I am excited to be attending the eThekwini Kota Festival because like all avenues of like-minded people, one will also get a chance to exchange ideas on what to do and to experiment with,” she said.

For the Kota 2 Nice owner, a good product is as good as its marketing strategy, and she uses social media to her advantage.

One happy customer is Khulekani Msamo, who comes from Mkhambathini, nearly 30km away from Imbali. He told the Independent on Saturday he had been impressed at the swift turnaround from Mntungwa when he made an inquiry on her social media account.

“There is nothing as nice as being shown that you are valued because it makes you want to spend your money there,” he said.

Independent on Saturday