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Trailblazer | Q&A with Thembeka Sibanyoni

When Thembeka Sibanyoni (28) completed her IIE IT qualification from IIE Rosebank College in 2011, she had no idea what the future had in store for her.

Now a successful entrepreneur, mother and wife, Sibanyoni is an example of how pursuing your passion leads to unimaginable gains. "My goal is to educate people about cooking and make them realise that even they can become the chef of their own kitchen."

Sibanyoni also aims to show how normal day-to-day ingredients, when put together creatively, can produce tasty, good looking dishes.

How did you discover your passion?

"I grew up with my grandparents and, like most girls, cooking was part of my household chores. My family would always compliment me on my cooking, which grew my confidence.

"When I met my husband 11 years ago, he was quite the foodie and loved cooking too. To impress him, I started putting more effort into the dishes I would prepare for him and my love for styling and presenting food just grew from there."

How did Tee's Cooking Addiction come to life?

"I used to post pictures of dishes I had prepared on my personal social media page and would get comments from my friends to start a page specific to my recipes. At first I was confused by this advice and thought they had had enough of my posts. But, eventually, I took their advice and that's when Tee's Cooking Addiction started. I offer cooking classes, catering and cooking advice. Today, I have over 83 000 followers and travel all over the country to cook."

How did you become a social media influencer?

"Being authentic is very important when looking to grow your social media presence. It was never my intention to have all these followers, but it just happened. I also decided to keep one Instagram page (Tee's Cooking Addiction) to avoid confusing my followers. The growth has come about organically, and people really enjoy my photo captions too."

Isn't there a lot of pressure involved with being a social media influencer?

"It does get overwhelming, but the secret for me has been staying in my lane. Stick to what you are good at and be the best at it. Also be real with what's happening with you and stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. Many people try too hard and lose track of where they are going."

What have been some important lessons learnt about entrepreneurship?

"Business is very difficult because there are so many moving parts in business and a lot of pressure. I have several sleepless nights and I'm constantly travelling. I've learnt to be firm as an employer and I've also learnt to appreciate feedback, which includes both positive and negative."

What are your plans for the future?

"I would like to launch a YouTube channel in the near future and a cookbook someday soon too."