Today on ‘TEF Alumni Corner’, we spotlight South African TEF entrepreneur, Ramasela Queen Molekwa, who is gradually kick starting her dream poultry farm and embarking on her entrepreneurial journey.
Q: When did you receive the grant?
A: I received the grant on the 9th of December, 2021.
Q: Can you tell us about your business?
A: I run a poultry, Ramotlele Poultry. It is a start up egg farming business based in a village (rural area) in the Limpopo province of South Africa. We’ve had to start from scratch (idea stage) and TEF was the first grant or financial assistance we’ve received. So we started with site clearance and bush clearing, fencing, water connection, ablution facilities construction and currently finishing off the main poultry house construction (only roofing remaining). We opted for a concrete structure.
The next step will be the installation of battery cages and we should be geared up to receive our first batch of egg layers for production. Our construction has been delayed by the rainy weather. But we’re hopeful that we should be able to be in production soon. We are also in the process of trying to access more funds as the grant is falling short, since we’re starting from scratch with construction, which proved to be a capital intensive exercise. The TEF grant has been very instrumental in our start up operations, we are very grateful.
Q: What inspired your business idea?
A: For me, it was more about creating a supply chain in my village. There’s very few opportunities for young people and particularly women. So the poultry farm will encourage youth and women to set up businesses within the poultry supply chain, like provide packaging, feed etc. I love farming and grew up in a home where we practiced subsistence farming. We don’t have an egg farming business in my village, just a few small scale live chicken sellers, so I saw a market opportunity and took it.
Q: How has receiving the seed capital, training, mentorship and networking support from the Tony Elumelu Foundation improved your business?
A: Whenever we get government projects in my village (like water projects and electricity projects), it’s always frustrating to see that men get contracted more than women.
At first it was just an idea, a very well thought and researched idea of course. But with the TEF training, I was able to commit to seeing it through. I was able to package this idea into a business plan with clear actionable items. The training was the most important part of my entrepreneurial journey. The seed capital was the next critical lever to kickstart my business. Now instead of a well polished idea, I had capital to put it into action.
Q: After training and mentorship from the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme, how has your operational model changed?
A: Well, initially, I was a bit skeptical about full time commitment, but following the training and mentorship, I have clear direction, my goals are measurable and I’m celebrating the few milestones that I’m crossing off my business plan. I am now able to commit full-time to my venture because I know exactly what needs to be done and I can’t wait to be operational so that I can have more full time operation staff and can empower more people.
Q: What would you define as your business’ most valuable proposition?
A: In my village and immediate surrounding villages, it’s the only egg farming business. There was a community egg farming project (government funded) some years back but it has failed. I think we’re more positioned for success because of the skills that my team brings to the project. Core skills across the team include project management, sales, business development, community and operations. This will ensure longevity.
Q: What have you enjoyed most about starting your own business?
A: I’ve enjoyed the absolute freedom of making operational decisions and the pace of learning throughout the entrepreneurial journey. I’ve also learned to prioritize and direct resources and energy where needed.
Q: What do you find most challenging about being an entrepreneur?
A: That would surely be the uncertainties that exist in the business world. Income is the biggest challenge, especially in the early stages when income streams aren’t consistent. Access to more capital is also a challenge since the grant enabled us to start, but we will need more capital injection to be fully operational. The other challenge is that of market uncertainties, meeting the demand in the new market and competing in the saturated market when we start approaching big retail customers.
Q: Where do you see your business in the next five years?
A: In the next five years, we hope to have grown to over 3000 egg layers, with an annual production of around one million eggs. We hope to supply at least three big retailers with eggs.
We’ll also have another structure constructed to accommodate the projected growth.
Q: What has been your most significant flop as an entrepreneur, and what did you learn from it?
A: The earliest flop I can cite in my entrepreneurial journey is perhaps underestimating the time commitment required. With the TEF training, I started thinking differently and positioning myself for a full-time transition. What I’ve learned is that a clear vision and most importantly, actionable plan, is critical to keep me on track and motivated to continue.
Q: What is your single most important achievement so far?
A: So far in my entrepreneurial journey, I’d cite my most significant achievement as completing the rigorous TEF training and ultimately getting the seed capital from TEF and finally erecting the poultry farm structure.
Q: How do you define success?
A: For me, success is being able to consistently achieve the milestones I have set out to achieve, no matter how small. And the ability to reflect on any lessons from past activities and doing better with the next milestones.
Q: What advice would you give other African entrepreneurs, especially those just starting their entrepreneurial careers?
A: My advice to them would be to start. The passion is there, the will is there. Opportunities are plenty and there’s a lot to learn from any failed attempt or experience. They should believe in themselves and see entrepreneurship as an opportunity and not a challenge. Give yourself the chance, you deserve it.
~ Author: Chinenye Akandu