SM: I am a 28 year old from Lusikisiki, in the rural parts of Eastern Cape. I am inspired by our continent, Africa; its diverse cultures, its quest for social and economic unity, collaboration, growth and becoming sustainable without relying on international aid. I also make it a part of my mission to re-popularise African foods which is my contribution towards a greater understanding of the African political and socio-economic condition.
BD: What are some of your childhood memories?
SM: My mother making us granadilla juice from granadilla fruit that she had just picked from the garden, eating yams and strawberries from our garden and playing.
BD: That sounds like a fun childhood, how was your school life?
SM: Busy and Fun. I took upon leadership roles early in my school career. I was a class monitor from grade 4 and later became head prefect both in primary and high school. I was also given the great privilege of serving my community in Interact, which is part of Rotary, where I was the president of my club and I suppose this also contributed to my business philosophy.
BD: What about tertiary level, what did you study?
SM: I studied a Bachelor of Social Science majoring in Community Development and Business Management at UKZN.
BD: Interesting, how did your tertiary studies help you in your business?
SM: I learned about development and business theories, this enabled me to attempt at using entrepreneurship as a vehicle for rural development.
BD: You are the founder and CEO of Local Village Foods, how did this come about?
SM: I have always loved commerce, I had my first formal company in grade 11 where we were attempting to manufacture tissue papers. This was not a successful business. I also worked for my mother in her mining business during school holidays. The idea of business has always been there but the love for food came into play when my sister taught me how to make fine foods when I was in grade 8 or so. My heart for Africa was probably birthed and nurtured at university, I was part of the Black Management Forum student chapter and led a university branch. Lastly, my degree played a pivotal role in shaping my understanding for the importance or rural development. Local Village Foods has enabled me to marry all my passions.
BD: To a lay man, what would you tell them Local Village Foods is about?
SM: We basically source, process and package various African superfoods from different parts of the continent.
BD: That is interesting, do you have any people employed at Local Village Foods?
SM: Yes, there are currently 2 full time direct employees and we are expanding the team in the next 3 months.
BD: As an entrepreneur, what are some challenges you faced starting your own company?
SM: Wanting to be successful without appreciating the process, business is a long journey and it requires us to be patient and work hard every day with consistency. Insufficient funding has also been a challenge but we need to just make the most of what we have to get to the next level.
SM: Honestly, through prayer and hard work. Entrepreneurship is hard, really hard. One cries until there are no more tears but I have found when I pray and believe I begin to have hope for tomorrow even though my situation does not change, clients not paying, competitors being ruthless, operational challenges, market barriers, lack of funding to move forward and many more challenges. When I have hope then I can give my best tomorrow and continue this journey. Another thought, I don’t think challenges will disappear in business.
BD: What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
SM: As mentioned earlier, I started my first business at an early stage. I think my mother inspired me as she had various ventures that were contributing to developing our community; Lusikisiki.
BD: Young people tend to think the agricultural sector is for the older generation, what attracted you to it?
SM: The ability to add value to the produce and be able to contribute to food production.
BD: How can this sector be made attractive to other young people?
SM: Agriculture is really broad and I think emphasis on other career aspects can bring an attraction such as agricultural economist, product development and many other exciting careers…
BD: For a young person out there, wanting to get into the agricultural sector, what would you advise them to do?
SM: Just start, even if you start from planting Rosemary in your garden or window sill, dry it up and sell it to a friend who has a cooking gig or make tea with it.
BD: What are some of your short term and long term goals?
SM: My immediate plans are to scale up the business and take it into bigger retailers in South Africa and to beyond its borders. Secondly, to make a more meaningful contribution on the continent through working with various rural communities and to contribute towards the implementation of our new policy on free and fair trade across Africa.
BD: On days where you wanted to give up, what kept you going?
SM: The Why of what I and Why I do it.