Annelise Stofberg’s story is one of successful job creation, growth and entrepreneurial spirit. And of course home-made cookies, rusks and sweets so popular that ten employees work full-time to keep up supply.
Cookies – ginger, custard, coffee, you name it – are produced in their thousands and sold at boutique outlets and popular markets. Rusks, fudge and other sweet treats, pancakes and good old South African roosterkoeke are the other hot favourites. “It sure does keep us busy!” says Annelise, who hasn’t forgotten her roots and still sells at the Pure Boland Market in Worcester each month.
Her kitchen didn’t always have industrial ovens and mixers. And for a long time it was only Mercia Maarman who helped her bake a few packets every now and then to give away as presents.
Then came the first batch supplied to a farmstall – a friend’s down the road from the farm in Waaihoek. Next was a school or a market here and there. Then a surprise order by a shop in Paternoster (whose owners incidentally tasted some of her cookies at a visit with one of Annelise’s friends). As Annelise got more orders, she needed more help, until one busy pre-Christmas season brought the grand total of women to ten.
“I realised that when the Christmas season was over, the ladies, who are from our own and other farms in the area, would be out of work for a few months. I wasn’t comfortable with that, so I went out and searched for more markets so we could keep producing and I could keep them employed.”
As close to perfect as it gets
Today the ladies run an impressive operation, and Annelise gives them full credit. “I really don’t want anyone to think that I’m doing this all on my own.”
Everything the ladies touch is so close to perfect that it’s hard to imagine it was made by hand. Each biscuit is shaped exactly the same as the next, each ball of dough exactly the same weight, each finished packet perfectly neat. “We’re adamant that our cookies have to look really pretty,” Mercia explains.
The success in Annelise’s business lies in these details but also in the recipes handed down from her mother. “I grew up with kleinkoekies. When I was in boarding school, from Sub A, my mother packed me a tin filled with four-o-clock cookies. She still baked it in a coal stove. So all my recipes are old recipes and some are still in my mother’s handwriting.
“It’s also very important to us to stick to the original instructions – we don’t cut back on butter or sugar at all. It’s fool-proof.”
It’s hard to think that Annelise’s first attempt at her own jam biscuits was a complete flop. It was only after Mercia tried her hand at a batch (which ended up being ABSOLUTELY PERFECT, says Annelise) that she realised there’s potential for something great.
Sixteen years later the greatness continues, and neither Annelise nor the ladies see themselves quitting anytime soon. “We work very well together as a team and we enjoy what we do,” says Charmaine Karelse.
What else can you expect from a team with the motto “We do it with love”?
Photos & Text by Elana van der Watt Breede River Buzz