Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Alumna on the crest of a wave in food industry

WHERE THERE'S A WILL, THERE'S A WAY: CPUT alumna, Christynn Jacobs says current and prospective students must know that a good education is extremely essential to grow and succeed in life. WHERE THERE'S A WILL, THERE'S A WAY: CPUT alumna, Christynn Jacobs says current and prospective students must know that a good education is extremely essential to grow and succeed in life.

A Complicated pregnancy and a son who was born prematurely at 30 weeks, weighing only 739g, couldn’t deter CPUT alumna Christynn Jacobs’ plan to become the first black female jam manufacturer in South Africa and building a legacy for “our children and the generations to come”.

The Hermanus-born businesswoman grew up in a beautiful, small fishing village called Hawston, where she attended the local primary school. She matriculated at Hermanus High School in 2003. In 2004 Jacobs enrolled for a Bachelor’s degree in Science at Stellenbosch University but she dropped out as “I was still unsure of what career path I wanted to follow”. She took a gap year before deciding to pursue a career in food, so she enrolled at CPUT in 2006, where she  completed her BTech in Food Technology in 2009.

After her studies, Jacobs worked very hard at building a successful career.  “I worked in the food industry for about 10 years. I focussed on gaining as much experience to ultimately work for myself, which meant making sacrifices, working hard, long and after hours. I managed to build a very comfortable life for myself and decided to risk it all to start my own business.”

Her humble beginnings in Hawston, which is a very close-knit community, and where people look out for each other has nurtured Jacobs to “stay humble and always remember where I come from”.

 “I was very fortunate to grow up in a large, loving family, that was always supportive.  I learned a lot from them.  People are very dear to my heart and that’s why it’s important for me to give back to my community,” she enthuses.

The hardworking, tenacious 35-year-old entrepreneur who sets very high standards for herself and others and her husband, Nigel, who is also her business partner, registered their Jacobs Jam Company in 2019.  Shortly after, the couple learned that they were expecting their firstborn child. During this time, they were busy setting up the business which included writing the business plan, sourcing finance, developing products, sourcing, and designing the equipment and processes, etc. “I had a complicated pregnancy and our son was born prematurely at 30 weeks, weighing only 739 grams. He was in the Intensive Care Unit for 72 days. This meant the family room at the hospital became our office and boardroom. It was a very challenging time, but we managed to push through and make it work.”

Their “very first commercial production run was on 6 November 2020 and almost exactly a year later, on the 26th of November 2021, we obtained the titles of Entrepreneurs of the Year 2021; Best Emerging Business and Best Overall Business at the Western Cape Entrepreneurial Awards. This was an extremely proud moment”.

“Starting this business has given me independence and the creative freedom to apply my skills and knowledge to make my own decisions that is crucial to the success of the business. I get to work in the field that is really my passion. But most importantly, what I wanted to achieve was to be more flexible and spend more time with my family. By starting this business I’ve achieved that and there’s nothing more rewarding,” Jacobs continues.

“It is important to work hard in order to make a comfortable living, but it’s pointless working yourself to death and not enjoy the fruits of your labour along the way.” 

Up until now their business focus has been on manufacturing jam and mainly for the Western Cape, however they would like to grow the business, expand into other regions, and increase their product lines.  “I’m currently working on the development of other products, such as juices, sauces as well as bompies (ice lollies), which will launch later this year. The fundamentals, mentorship, and support that I not only received from the university, but also my partner Nigel, who is also an alumnus of CPUT, is pivotal.  It enabled us to start a business from scratch and make it the success it is today.”

She attributes her success to hard work, perseverance and sacrifice. “For me it’s important to build a solid foundation for my children and give them the opportunities that I didn’t necessarily have growing up.

“The next mega food group must still be born, and we’re determined to be it.”  The couple has worked for big companies and climbed the corporate ladder all the way to the top. “I, being a food technologist and his background as a fast-moving consumer goods marketer is a rare find. It just made sense to combine our expertise and knowledge of the industry to start our own business within the food industry.”

Reflecting on juggling between work and family, Jacobs says: “We’re always jamming at Jacobs household. When I am not at work, I spend quality time with my family, whether it’s doing activities at home or going out and enjoying what our beautiful region has to offer.”

Written by Aphiwe Boyce