Heath problems prompted Durban North businesswoman Busi Gumede to switch from providing energy solutions in townships, to seeking health ones – and starting natural health and beauty ranges
Statuesque, stylish, and glowing with good health, Busi Gumede leads the way into the kitchen of her elegant Durban North home. It was here, five years ago, that a very different Busi repaired, ill and exhausted, suffering from chronic constipation and haemorrhoids after the birth of her second child.
“I was desperate to find a solution – and I knew if I succeeded, I’d be able to help other women who face the same problems after having babies.”
Busi had a distinct advantage – a degree in nutrition from the University of KwaZulu-Natal – but had strayed from that field over the years. After graduating and a spell in the food processing industry in Cape Town, Busi became pregnant, and returned to Durban to help her mother and aunt run six small family shops in uMlazi and KwaMashu.
“One night I’d just closed a shop when I found myself confronted by eight young guys with guns. They forced me to drive my car into the bush and strip-searched me, demanding money, and threatening to kill me. All that saved me was that one of them recognised me from school – and he persuaded the others to let me go. But they’d pistol-whipped me so badly that when I got home, my son – who was nearly two – couldn’t recognise me.”
A traumatised Busi turned her back on shopkeeping and decided to try her hand at filling different township needs, by launching Global Pact Consulting, a small company providing energy solutions by building powerlines for Eskom. Eight arduous years later she found herself with a successful business, a second baby – and those agonising haemorrhoids.
“I wanted a natural treatment, but nothing really worked,” she says. Then a friend suggested she try kefir, a cultured dairy product used for centuries in Asian and European traditional medicine. “Keif is Turkish for ‘good feeling’, is high in vitamins, minerals and enzymes, and is one of the best sources of probiotics.”
Probiotics was just becoming a buzzword at the time, and relatively little was known about gut health. “The more I read, the more interested I became in the 100 trillion microbes each of us has in our intestinal tract, and their role in physical and mental health. Their well-being is essential not just for good digestion – my problem – but for immunity, healthy skin and bones, even mood. I couldn’t wait to try kefir!”
Kefir is cultivated from starter grains of bacteria and yeast that interact with milk to form a fermented drink. “Taking it got me regular, my skin looked great and I had way more energy.”
Busi shared her enthusiasm with family and friends, but not all appreciated the tangy taste of kefir, so she started experimenting in her kitchen after work, using fresh fruit and honey for flavour. So well were her efforts received, that she decided to “go commercial”, and last year launched KePro (Kefir Probiotics), registering a company, Goodlife Foods, to market them.
“I wanted mine to be the best kefir, and the Danes are leaders in dairy techniques, so I flew to Denmark and bought the finest culture I could find. Back home I blended it with fruit and pure honey, and registered the DNA of my culture. Then I found a good advertising agency to do the branding and packaging.”
The KePro range now includes creamy yoghurts (without any actual cream) in flavours from strawberry and blueberry to pomegranate and plain, along with smoothies, ice-creams (strawberry, apple and lemon) and cream cheeses (chives and roast pepper).
Busi was about to open the country’s first kefir bar on Chartwell Drive in uMhlanga last year, when she landed a deal to supply Spar instead. Her yoghurts are now in 14 Spar stores around the province, with more in the pipeline. She is in the throes of opening a factory in the Midlands, converting the old Stonelees Dairy premises at Lions’ River. She hopes to begin her production of KePro there, along with a line of conventional maas, Goodlife Amasi, by Christmas.
But the tireless businesswoman is already moving on to yet another project. “I’m now 42, and I want to help women to be beautiful both inside and out, so I’m launching a skincare range, working with a dermatologist. Your skin is your biggest organ, it absorbs whatever you put on it, so you need to take care of it.”
The inskn range will use omega oils in formulations for face and body moisturisers and tissue oils that are 90% natural and from plants, she says – with none of the colourants, preservatives and other controversial chemicals found in many commercial cosmetics (parabens, sodium lauryl sulphate, petroleum).
“I want to help South African women have better health naturally and affordably – and the bonus for me is to employ and empower local people along the way.”
For more about KePro visit www.goodlifefoods.co.za; for more about inskn cosmetics, visit
www.inskn.co.za when the site is loaded later this year, with store locators.Tags: Busi Gumede, health, small business