By Mpho Shelile

MASERU – There’s something undeniably special about the bond between mothers and daughters. Whether she was there to motivate you to keep going, provided a shoulder to cry on when times got tough, or has just remained a steadfast anchor in your life, moms have a seemingly infinite well of compassion whenever she is  needed the most. And sometimes, your mom becomes more than a mom, maybe even a business partner! We have a good example of that from Mamello Fokolo Hlaisa and her mom Thetso Fokolo.

Mrs. Thetso and her daughter Mamello teamed up to open their restaurant, JIA Lapeng, on the 23 May this year. They serve Africa-Asian inspired cuisine at their fancy-casual eatery in Maseru Mall. In her speech Mrs. Thetso stated that JIA lapeng’s main focus is to provide quality, creative, convenience and affordable variety of food, “JIA lapeng has a family friendly ambience, and it is a fast and fine casual dining restaurant. An African-Asian menu is a culinary concept that combines elements and flavors from both African and Asian cuisines to create a unique and diverse dining experience. The inspiration behind such a menu can came from various sources, including cultural connections, historical influences, and a desire to explore and experiment with different culinary traditions, “stretching your mother-daughter relationship into a professional one takes strength, courage, and trust. And where better to do that than in a restaurant? stated Thetso.

That is why Mamello and her mother became restaurant owners who turned their love and passion for food into a family business. These women discuss how their dreams of owning a restaurant became a reality, and how fulfilling it is to have achieved it together. The experience has also allowed them to share recipes with the world that are important to their family.

Mrs. Thetso worked at BEDCO for the past 13 years, for the first 6 years, she was employed as head of Enterprises Developed Manager, thereafter she stepped into a role of  head of newly established Procurement department since procurement activities were done by individual departments the activities then centralized and after 3 years she became head of BEDCO Estates as Projects and Infrastructure Manager…from this background alone one could say diversity has been her era in business management hence it’s no surprise that she is now a restaurant owner.

“Mamello is actually a very independent business lady, aspiring to lead in business in her own way… as an Optometrist I never thought she could want to venture in a cooking industry. Unlike me, career in business management academia had opened my horizons extensively. But she always grabs opportunities as they arise and wanted to incorporate me. She knows my love for cooking so she went on to capitalized on it in this venture. Working with Mamello has been challenging though stable because we were both new in this industry and lack appropriate expertise. We are blessed with the best employees who provide us with the utmost support making this journey so much more bearable. We only leveraged from experienced employees who have been there also on good business principles and management”, she said.

“Working with my family, I have discovered my life purpose in leading a company that brings confidence and happiness into the lives of many people. Often times when we disagree it is always easy to resolve as we put aside our parent and a child roles to reach middle ground and resolve the matter at hand. Having differing opinions and perspectives is not necessarily a bad thing. Each one of us is passionate about a certain aspects of the business. It is best to harness these passions. In doing so, we can also figure out how to work with the weaknesses or find out whose strength might be another person’s weakness”.

Mamello Fokolo Thetso in her remarks stated that her ultimate inspiration behind an African-Asia was the fact that she is African and her culture and culinary tradition run deep, while the Asian one was basically inspired by the previous owner of the restaurant and what they offered. It’s a chance to explore the intersection of two diverse and flavorful culinary traditions and create something truly unique.

“In most family gatherings, Mom has always been the one leading in food preparation and cooking.  Apart from cooking she loves sharing food with others. She taught me not to be afraid of being adventurous with Sesotho dishes, they should also have a modern feel”, said Mamello.  

“She has positively influenced me and the company tremendously. Her work ethic is impeccable and demands the standards to be always on point. She has been in corporate entities and excelled with whatever project she handled, so that innate capabilities just made a big turnaround the n company. Also the love she showers everything with just makes me have faith and confidence that this entity will succeed”, declared Mamello.

“Remember that communication, trust, and a shared vision are essential for a successful mother-daughter restaurant partnership. While challenges may arise, working together closely can also be an incredibly rewarding experience, allowing us to share our passion for food and hospitality with the world”, concluded Thetso.