Coming up with a unique business idea is challenging. Protecting that idea from being stolen is even tougher. Take Cape Town entrepreneur Lufefe Nomjana. In 2011, he came up with a way to make bread slightly healthier by adding spinach to it and calling it “spinach bread”, formally known as Espinaca, which is also the name of his company. He added honey, rosemary and basil for extra flavour.
When Lufefe pitched his idea at a pitching session hosted by the UCT Graduate School of Business, he won an award for best business idea. He realised that he had a unique idea and bigger companies were starting to approach him with different offers.
He feared that someone else might steal his idea before he had even had the chance to turn it into a profitable business. “A lot of companies wanted to partner with me, some wanted to get a piece of this idea, so I had to protect it,” he says.
How he did it
He went to the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), a body under The Department of Trade and Industry, who gave him a temporary patent, which would allow him to apply for the 20-year patent, something he is currently working on. So what is a patent, anyway? It’s an exclusive right that is granted by the government to an inventor. In South Africa, this happens through a law known as the Patent Act. The act further states that the invention needs to be useful for trade, industry or agriculture.
For Lufefe this means that spinach bread cannot be commercially made without his consent. This protection from the government, will last for 20 years.
At the end of the day, says Lufefe, big companies will want to work with him because they can mass-produce his product. He knew the value of his company from the beginning and moved to protect it.
Today Lufefe is moving forward with his company, Espinaca Innovations. He recently signed a contract to supply five Pick ‘n Pay Stores with Espinaca bread. His goal is to also supply spinach pizza bases, spinach rusks, spinach rolls and dominate the bakery industry with healthy products. “The aim is to be the best, not the biggest,” he said.
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