A taste for life
When Malaika Mumba decided to craft a healthy, nutritious diet to address her panic attacks she had no idea how this would change her life. The author-cum-fashion designer shares her journey and all that she has learned in her two cookbooks, including her most recent offering, Banting on a Zambian Diet.
The number of Zambian women engaged in entrepreneurship is growing exponentially. With many young women reaching greater heights, chasing their passions and owning profitable businesses, one can only be inspired. I was certainly inspired following a fun and enlightening conversation with Malaika Mumba, author of the books Try Vegan: The Essential Vegan Cookbook and Banting on a Zambian Diet and owner of fashion line MM Fashion.
Malaika is a Zambian entrepreneur based in the UK. She grew up in both Zambia and the UK.
“I have always been business-minded and I come from a family of business-minded people,” she shares.
When she completed her studies in business administration, she wanted to open her own fashion shop in the UK, however, this did not work out as the market did not allow for it. The cost was a little too high to run her business.
“I then decided to go back to school and study project management to help me acquire a specific skill to jumpstart my career in fashion. I felt that if I studied the course, it would help me manage my business project,” Malaika explains.
Malaika then joined one of the biggest software companies in London, CONDECO, as a project manager. While at CONDECO, where she worked for five years, Malaika started experiencing panic attacks and saw countless doctors. She was hesitant to take medication to address her panic attacks.
After doing some research, Malaika decided to change her diet. “I got off sugar, stopped eating junk food and reduced my meat consumption for a month. Surprisingly, I started to feel better. I also decided to start a food journal to keep track of my food intake and how I felt. I then realised that certain foods gave me panic attacks,” she explains.
Following this experience Malaika started a nutrition blog to help herself and others. “I then got curious about being vegan. Veganism was a trending topic at that time, so I tried it for a month. It was very difficult at first because I liked meat. I lost a lot of weight, my body felt weak and I was low on energy. I was not happy and I believe that diets should not make you sad,” she explains.
Even though she didn’t have the greatest experience with the first month of being vegan, Malaika didn’t give up. So she researched more and followed a vegan diet for three months. “It was amazing,” she says enthusiastically. Her research helped her figure out what foods to eat. She tried different recipes and after the second month she was inspired to write her first book, Try Vegan. The book contains some of Malaika’s favourite vegan recipes and was written to encourage people to try a vegan diet for 21 days. It also delves into her personal story and experience with veganism. Unfortunately finding a publisher for her book was a challenge, especially as she was still working full-time as a project manager.
However, when the pandemic hit, Malaika took a sabbatical and went to South Africa. During lockdown, she went back to the drawing board and managed to find partners to help publish her book. “It was the perfect time because people were in their homes and needed to order,” she explains.
Malaika first published on takealot.com which is one of South Africa’s biggest online retailers. “My book was doing well and my publisher decided to make it international. We sold it to the US and it’s now in UK’s biggest bookstore, Waterstones. We finally brought it home to Zambia last December,” she says. When asked why the book only came to Zambia later, she joked about how Zambians love their meat.
After her first book, Malaika decided to do something specifically for a Zambian audience. She recently released her second book, Banting on a Zambian Diet, as she noticed a growing interest in banting in the country. “I started working on the book last year. I also want to go digital with it, to reach a wider audience,” she explains.
Malaika is a woman who wears many hats and is always willing to chase her passions. Besides food and nutrition, she has always been passionate about fashion and she finally decided to take the plunge and create her own fashion line called MM Fashion. Malaika currently employs four people who help her with MM Fashion but she designs all the pieces herself and she loves her work.
“I fell in love with a certain fabric I found in South Africa, it was rich and unique and I knew I would create beautiful pieces of clothing with it,” she says as she explains the origins of her fashion line.
MM first launched in South Africa and Malaika was impressed with the reception. She then brought her fashion line to the Zambian market and she says the reception has been equally great.
Malaika’s work is inspired by our rich African cultures. She wanted to create a modern and chic African style. She hopes to put Zambia on the map with her work.