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NoMU: Tracy Foulkes & Paul Raphaely

From home industry to international brand, NoMU’s story is an intriguing one

Juliet Pitman



Tracey Paul

Every year, thousands of people start a home industry, hoping it will grow into a burgeoning business – and every year, thousands of them fail. Tracy Foulkes is not among these.

A former caterer and self-taught chef, she started NoMU with R25 000 in her Cape Town kitchen five years ago. Today, her products are listed in stores in 27 countries. They have been profiled in top magazines the world over, including Vogue and Harpers Bazaar. Harrods approached NoMU, wanting to stock the product line. Along with partner Paul Raphaely, who left a career in advertising and product management to help grow the company, Foulkes has been astonished by the phenomenal success of the brand. And yet, both she and Raphaely are quick to point out that their journey has been one of frustration, challenges, mistakes and a learning curve steep enough to give you vertigo. Not only does Foulkes have no food qualification, neither she nor Raphaely has any formal business training. “The challenges that we have overcome have been substantial,” Foulkes reflects. She had to learn all the technical food know-how required for commercial food production the hard way: as she went along. “We have a swear word around here – school fees,” says Raphaely. “We have paid a lot of them, either because we were too eager or too impatient or too naïve.”

Both of them list cash flow as the biggest challenge. The rapid growth of the business was very cash-heavy. “We had to learn to balance wanting to have fun with the business, to grow it and do exciting things versus the reality of needing to be flexible and put things on hold temporarily,” he explains. Cash flow lay at the heart of other challenges, like initially not being able to employ the technical team they required. This meant their team of three – Raphaely, Foulkes and long-time and first employee Tina van der Hoven – did everything from marketing and client liaison to production and dispatch logistics. “Some days, this included doing deliveries and picking up tins,” recalls Raphaely. Demands from suppliers also meant demands for more space, and Raphaely and Foulkes embarked on the costly venture of building their own factory. The pair faced these challenges with energy, enthusiasm and a fast-developing hard-nosed business sense. They did what was necessary to fund the business, taking loans and getting an overdraft facility. Fortunately, the NoMU products spoke for themselves. Part of the product’s success has been its ability to fill a niche in the market. 

Foulkes explains: “We’ve tried to create packaging that is sexy, trendy and eye-catching. Then the taste of the food itself keeps people coming back for more. Finally, we’ve been fanatical about quality. Consumers are so much more knowledgeable about what they don’t want to put into their bodies and NoMU offers them something to fill this need. These three – packaging, taste and quality – mean consumers are happy to pay a bit extra for our products.” When asked what will set NoMU apart from other brands that have not managed to stand the test of time, Foulkes says: “Sticking to our key principle of quality and not prostituting the brand for higher volumes.” The eye for quality in everything, while exhausting and expensive, has paid off.Foulkes remembers getting her first export order after a British distributor noticed the brand at a local food expo in Cape Town. After the brand was spotted in Britain, orders from Norway and Holland quickly followed. “There are a couple of upmarket supermarket chains overseas that set the trends and watch each other, so if you are listed in one, then the others want you in their store as well. Before we knew it, we were in 27 countries,” explains Foulkes. While she comes up with product concepts based on what she’d like to use in her kitchen, Raphaely points out that product development is also driven by the desire to bring out products that are better and of a higher quality than those already available in stores. “There is a strong competitive edge to NoMU,” he says. With such success behind them, the future promises much. “There have been enquiries about whether we are interested in selling the business or selling a share in it,” says Foulkes. But, being true entrepreneurs, they are enjoying the success of their venture too much to bow out now. “We’re focusing on more growth and the next level,” says Foulkes.

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.


25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton



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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.






Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect




Vital Stats

It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.


“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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