We love startups and are always happy to see great new ideas popping up in Zimbabwe and gaining traction. One that recently caught our attention is Yanaya, a food operator with a focus on assisting vegans and vegetarians (or anyone who just wants a vegetable-based meal) in Zimbabwe with access to delicious takeaway meals. I caught up with Nyary Dhliwayo, owner of Yanaya to talk about the business and their experiences.

What does your business do?

Yanaya aims to share delicious, wholesome, plant-based food that fuels and energises without compromising flavour, taste or satisfaction. Our chef-driven healthy menu features locally-sourced ingredients in their most natural form to create inspired dishes, made 100% by us daily.

We are passionate about feeding our customers hearty, nourishing meals made from whole ingredients that have a positive impact on their overall mind-body and health.

At Yanaya our goal is simple- to redefine what it means to eat well and promote a healthier happy lifestyle.

How big is Yanaya?

We have two branches, 18 employees and we serve approximately 200 customers daily

How long have you been operating and how is the environment?

We turn one this month of July, it has been a tough time coming…

Why did you start this business?

I had been vegetarian vegan for 5 years while I was away at school out of the country and when I returned home I realized that every time I would go out I would be eating fries and Greek salads. So it made me realize there is a gap in the market for health enthusiasts like me who love eating out so we created Yanaya.

How receptive have Zimbabweans been to Yanaya?

Surprisingly very receptive. There are a lot of health-conscious people around here.

Challenges you’ve faced and face in running and growing your business thus far?

You don’t know what you don’t know, you will only know it when you know it. No amount of preparation can help you enough to be geared for challenges as a Zimbabwean entrepreneur, the major one of which is cash flow.

Your brand messaging suggests healthy food, how is the uptake in Zimbabwe in terms of healthy food?

The uptake has been very good, our current location is positioned directly opposite a gym that has a membership of over 700 people.

Lockdown affected many businesses, yours included. How did you manage to come out of it still able to operate?

I think the pandemic has forced all businesses to pivot and look into new ways of doing businesses.

Zimbabwe has a strong agricultural sector and organic food is easy to procure on the market. Is this an advantage to your type of business or disadvantage given the access people have to healthy food?
I am a firm believer in supporting local producers and improving value chains. The biggest hurdle for our farmers pertains to post-harvest losses, so much perishable agriculture produce goes to waste because our farmers do not have many ready off-takers like us who are willing to apply fair conditions when transacting with farmers. This is why at Yanaya our procurement policy is 100% local. All our natural ingredients are sourced from local farmers. So whenever our patrons eat from us they know they are buying from a business that is keeping local farmers employed. Having previously worked for one of the largest local seed houses, my desire is to improve Zimbabwe’s value chain. After all, our farmers are renowned for their fresh-tasting organic produce that is not genetically modified.

What can we expect from Yanaya in the near future?

More outlets, retail products and inspiration to live healthier and happy lifestyles.

Any words you would like me to add for others who aspire to be like you.

Start somewhere, start anyhow, start slow but whatever you have to do start!

In case it has skipped the attention I think the food business has a lot of potential in Zimbabwe. One thing Yanaya made me think of was an article I wrote on finding market niches, something Yanaya has successfully done and their idea embodies those principles. The common discourse is that it can’t be done in Zimbabwe but daily, we see businesses like Yanaya reminding us that it is difficult but not impossible. You can find Yanaya on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.