How Natasha Nourished Passion into a Plant-Based Business
19 July 2023
Natasha Napoli, owner of Cape Town’s favourite vegan eatery, talks to us about how she turned her love for plant-based eating into the success story that is Nourish’d.
You were 26 years old when you started Nourish’d after travelling the globe for six years. Can you tell us about the journey from intrepid adventurer to small business owner?
Nourish’d is the result of my personal experience living in Costa Rica. I’d spent the previous year there learning about the connection between mind, body, and soul, and it’s where I fell in love with eating plant-based food. When I came home to Cape Town, I couldn’t find anywhere that made the kind of plant-based food that I wanted to eat. That’s how Nourish'd was born. I wanted to ignite the same passion I have for a plant-based lifestyle and share the benefits with other people.
Something interesting that comes up time again when chatting to Yoco merchants is how someone’s passion – whatever it is – forges tenacity and propels small business owners forward on the days they’d rather hide under the duvet. What’s your take on that?
Definitely. For me, my passion and my mission – to have a tangible, positive impact on the planet – are what motivate me. Often when I’m navigating something tricky, I’ll remind myself about why I started in the first place, and then it’s like, okay, I’m working towards this vision – and this is part of the journey to realising that. But the other thing that keeps me pushing forward is my staff – I’m very close to all of them, so they play a huge part in propelling me forward when things feel tough.
You're now in your sixth year of business, with three locations, a dedicated team of staff, and an online store. What has this growth looked like for you?
It’s very much been a journey of personal growth: when I started out, I didn’t know anything about business. I did a Get Smarter course on business through UCT before I started Nourish’d. I soon realised that you can only really learn the practicalities of how a business works and how to run it when you’re actually doing it. In the beginning, I’d write down terms like “revenue” and then go and look it up. If you told me that six years later I’d be able to confidently walk into a pitch or meeting about finance and speak the same language as my accountants, I wouldn’t have believed you.
In the bigger picture, my experience has been that growth isn’t linear. You move forward, and then you have a setback, and then you get back on your feet having learnt that lesson. Nourish’d is such a seasonal business, we go up in summer, and then down in winter, and then up in summer, it’s not a straight trajectory. Right now, I’m working on creating a ‘winter-proof’ concept so that growth is always on the up for us. Of course, Covid was also a huge curveball, but that pushed us to grow in other ways – that’s how our online store came about.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you share with people who also want to turn an idea into a small business? What are some of the learnings that could make someone else’s journey that little bit smoother?
Don’t let fear of failure stop you. If the concept doesn't work, at least you’ve learnt a whole bunch of stuff that can be used for another venture. It’s also really important to first test a business model before you apply for a huge loan from a bank or pump a lot of money into something and potentially lose all that capital. Try it out first in a way that’s low risk. For example, if you wanted to start a bakery, you could begin with creating content in your kitchen, and then post it on Instagram and ask people to DM for orders. There are SO many ways to test and launch and run a business – and it doesn’t need to require a lot of capital in the beginning.
Something that helped me was reaching out to people who’d done it before. I put myself out there and said “I'm a young entrepreneur, I’m passionate about this thing, would you mind sparing 20 minutes to take a call?” People are so willing to share their knowledge when they can see how passionate you are.
It’s really important that you ask people who’ve done it before questions about the practical stuff like, registering a company, doing your tax return, or VAT. If you’ve gathered that information prior to launching something, you’re better equipped. I did the complete opposite, I had to learn everything as I went, which was really difficult.
Dreaming big is what got you to where you are. What does the future of Nourish’d look like?
My dream is to create a global plant-based business that only leaves a positive impact on the earth. I really want to make plant-based eating accessible for everybody around the world. What that looks like for Nourish’d is opening up a vegan cafe in every major city around the world, but avoiding the generic Starbucks-franchise model. I’d also love to create an amazing plant-based product line that we can export internationally. I know it's a huge goal but I feel like if your goals don't scare you, then they're not big enough. Being a player in the global plant-based market would be an absolute dream come true.