Ina Paarman (Instagram, @inapaarman)
Ina Paarman (Instagram, @inapaarman)
  • Ina Paarman, founder of Paarman foods, started a cooking school in her garage in 1982.
  • Today Paarman foods is one of South Africa’s most recognised brand names.
  • She credits patience and persistence for her success.

Ina Paarman resigned as a home-economics lecturer at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) in 1982, to launch a cooking school from her garage in Constantia, Cape Town.

Today her spice, condiment and bakery empire is a household name.

In an interview on personal-finance show Geldhelde on VIA TV (DStv channel 147), Paarman explained how the brand became one of the most recognised in the country.

“In the beginning, it was very difficult. Like anyone who starts a business, you’re running short on money and you can’t afford to advertise your business,” said Paarman. “So, I put my children on their bicycles to put letters in everyone’s post boxes.”

People were at first hesitant to pay to learn how to cook, but as word spread her cooking school slowly started to grow, she said.

Paarman and her son Graham (Facebook, Ina Paarman)
Paarman and her son Graham (Facebook, Ina Paarman)

Seven years after launching the school, Paarman’s son, Graham completed his business degree and advised his mother to convert her cooking school into a food-manufacturing business.

Graham and Paarman’s husband Ted used proceeds from Paarman’s self-published cookbook “Cook with Ina Paarman”, published in 1987, to start the business.

Ted also invested his entire retirement savings to kick start the kitchen empire which became known as Paarman Foods.

The company exported its first products to Australia in 1995, which grew to 32 countries - including the United Arab Emirates where Paarman is Halaal-certified - in 2018.

Graham with Paarman Foods' first filling machine i
Graham with Paarman Foods' first filling machine in 1992 (Instagram, @inapaarman)

In 1998, the company became retail giant Woolworth’s first retail partner. It grew to dominate the shelves of most major South African retailers.

Today, Paarman Foods operates a highly mechanised manufacturing facility that employs roughly 150 full-time employees, aside from hundreds of farmers and subcontractors.

“I think a big mistake many people make is they want to plant a tree today and pick the fruits tomorrow,” Graham said.  

“It doesn’t work like that. It’s a long, drawn-out process that requires a lot of sacrifices. Hold out, hold on, and hold your mouth.”

Geldhelde airs every Tuesday at 20:30 on VIA (DStv channel 147), with repeats on Wednesdays at 08:30 and Sundays at 19:30.

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