Next up in the #Limitless series on African women forging head in industries dominated by men, meet Nyaradzo Moyo, a Zimbabwean food entrepreneur. For the first time affordable, vegan and vegetarian food options are available on the dining and takeaway scene from her chain of restaurants.

When 29-year-old Moyo came back to Zimbabwe after studying photography at Stellenbosch University in South Africa she was surprised at the lack of healthy food options in Harare. “I had gone vegan and vegetarian whilst I was out of the country,” she says. “When I came back home I struggled to find food options that were fulfilling and that tasted nice. There was just nothing”. Moyo and her husband got a loan from a friend to start the business.

“From the loan we were bootstrapping to create more to grow the business.” A photographer by training, she tried a handful of small-scale business ideas to supplement her income. They all failed. “I tried freelancing as a photographer. I used to photograph weddings and commercial events. I tried sewing. I tried a number of things because I had read a book which encouraged you to make a dollar a day. So I was just trying my hand at a few things…”

Moyo started off doing deliveries of her recipes in 2016 when she first moved back to Harare. In 2019, she opened her first location downtown at Joina City. Yanaya is a Shona word which means “it has rained – freshness has come”. Today, Yanaya has seven locations in Harare and Bulawayo.

Moyo adds that the Covid pandemic has unexpectedly boosted her business even though restaurants have been closed for sit-in dining for the greater part of 2020 and 2021. “It was a blessing in disguise. Corona really pushed people to be more conscious of their health and what they were eating.”

We didn’t anticipate that it would be received the way the market received our food.

Yanaya serves food that is plant-based with a myriad of vegan and vegetarian options such as sweet potatoes and barley. Zimbabwe is a traditionally meat-eating country, and Yanaya’s success is a testament to how delicious the food is. Moyo says, “We are not 100 percent plant-based because the market is not yet ready. So, we do serve meat, but with a lot of vegetables. Our flagship product is our smoothies with no additives and no sugar.” The now legendary Yanaya smoothies incorporate local, traditional fruit masawu, tsubvu and baobab.

Moyo has also come up with Zimbabwe’s first dairy-free yoghurt which is now stocked in grocery stores across the country. “The acceptance has been very overwhelming. We didn’t anticipate that it would be received the way the market received our food. It’s a long process but we’re getting there,” she says. “Our goal is to inspire people to lead healthier food lifestyles, if we can convert one person to eat clean and to eat less sugar we have won. Because ultimately everyone’s health is their wealth so we are providing solutions.”

Moyo says that when she was growing up, her mom was very health-conscious and followed the Edenic diet, where believers only eat what was available for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. “The food we would eat was influenced by our religion. We are Seventh Day Adventists… Some of the recipes we use at Yanaya are recipes my mom used to prepare when we were younger.”

It’s not been easy, but as lockdown is beginning to lift in Zimbabwe, this accidental entrepreneurial success is hoping that more and more Zimbabweans will continue to embrace a healthier lifestyle.

With thanks to Africa No Filter who made this series possible.