There is nothing more evocative of a country than its cuisine, and one woman entrepreneur from the Democratic Republic of Congo is taking the essence of her country and bottling it in jars for a European audience. Bomanga Ngoi Longango and her company Evelea, are capturing the flavours of African vegetables such as cassava leaves, amaranth leaves, and other traditional vegetables in ready to eat form, preserved in jars.
LoA spoke to Bomanga this month as part of our Focus on Women Food and Drink Entrepreneurs to find out more….
What inspired you to start your company?
For me cooking is a melting-pot where cultures come together. Nowadays every specific food variety from any part of the world is consumed and exported, regardless of the cultural disparities and geographic borders. For me, a meal is a moment where culture can be shared. At Evelea, we offer fresh vegetables such as cassava leaves, amaranth leaves, red and green gooseberries, all organic and traditionally from Africa, and preserve them in jars, ready to eat. The cassava leaf occupies a very important place in the staple diet of many African families and is consumed almost every day. It has a high nutritional value because it is rich in vitamin A, good for skin protection, it is high in iron and a very efficient ally against anemia, rich in calcium for bone strengthening, and rich in dietary fibre.
"Our love for vegetables pushes us every day to tap the depths of ourselves, and to develop recipe ideas for the cassava leaves, Ngai Ngai, the biteku teku and other vegetables, which are increasingly consumed by all. Since the kitchen is a mix of cultures, why not combine our traditional dishes with modernity?"
Why should anyone use your service or product?
Evelea prides itself on trying to bring that atmosphere of unity between différent cultures by introducing African greens to all plates regardless of the culture or geographical location.
Tell us a little about your team
Actually I work with my husband. I am responsible for our store and he organises all thelogistics. Our products come from the Congo, so we work with the local farmers there.
"Our fresh vegetables are guaranteed to be pesticide and herbicide free, and are grown according to our African traditions without destruction to flora or fauna. Nature is our precious ally."
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
Everyday, I wake up at 5 o'clock and after praying, I prepare my two daughters for school. We leave home at 8 o'clock so I can open our shop at 10 o'clock, preparing veggies for selling, and my day really begins at 11o’clock. Before I began my entrepreneurial entreprise, I was a nurse and worked in hospital. So I am learning on my entrepreneurial journey every day and it's a big challenge. With conviction, strength, courage, faith, perseverence, each and everyday, we take on this big challenge.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
I would like to open another shop in Brussels and work with some great Belgian chiefs.
"One of our goals is to enhance the local farmer by making him one of the key links in the supply chain, helping us to preserve our natural resources."
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
Now I can share my love of veggies with other people and show them a beautiful side of Africa.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
You are your own dream so every day must lead you to success. You have to believe in your dream and work hard for it.
Contact or follow Evelea Foods
Why LoA Loves It….
There is something really wonderful about women entrepreneurs who have a passion for what they produce and look to open the world’s minds and palettes to those products. In the case of Bomanga Ngoi Longango, the founder of Evelea, she is taking Africa’s unique vegetables and introducing them to European dinner tables and palettes. At the same time, she is sharing her African roots and culture with all those who taste her wonderful vegetable jars. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa