We spoke to Mokgadi Modiba. A young woman from Polokwane. She is the founder and CEO of Urban Legae Poultry (Pty) Ltd. She is also a Bcom student. She is not shy to state that she holds many titles within her business.
BD: Please tell us who you are.
MM: My name is Mokgadi Modiba. I am a 26 year old female farmer from Mankweng, a township 25km out of Polokwane. I am the Founder and CEO of Urban Legae Poultry (Pty) Ltd. I always make it known that I am also currently the PR officer, the admin clerk, the receptionist, both the manager and chief of everything, and I am not complaining.
BD: How was your upbringing?
MM: Because of my parent’s sacrifices, I never had a difficult childhood. I come from a loving Christian family of 5; my father, my late mother and two big brothers. I believe that family is the cornerstone of our society; I was raised to be ambitious and care for others. A huge part of what I do today is influenced by my upbringing.
BD: You are a final year student in BCom accounting. How did you end up in commerce?
MM: I have always wanted to be a Chartered Accountant. Even back in High School; Pro Arte Alphen Park my study field was Enterprise Management. This meant I had accounting as a subject from grade 8, so it is really no surprise I ended up in commerce.
BD: How do you juggle being a student and being an entrepreneur?
MM: Of late, I try not to juggle too much. I am an entrepreneur first, when business demanded more of my time, I had to deregister as a full-time student and take studies one module at a time, part-time. School is a tool I need to assist me to excel in this entrepreneurial field, though I do not necessarily juggle, I can never totally abandon my studies.
BD: Are there any skills or training you had to obtain in order to ensure the success of Urban Legae Poultry?
MM: Yes. I did my training with Debbie Rielander. She offers training that is accredited with AgriSeta.
BD: What are some challenges you faced upon starting your own business?
MM: Due to budget constraints, we had to construct a low budget house. It was not professionally built, and when the rainy season hit, it was catastrophic with a leaking roof. The chicken market sales were a bit slower than we had hoped, and so we took some of our profits and bought feed to maintain the flock we had left. This meant, before we could break-even, more costs were accumulating. High feed costs are constantly increasing. We couldn’t maintain the flock anymore with feed so we had to slaughter our chickens. Also, one of our market segments, households, prefer chickens already slaughtered. However, our nearest abattoir, Mike’s Chicken, has closed down. Load shedding is a major problem. Without electricity, since we don’t have a solar system at the farm, we cannot pump water and chickens need a lot of fresh water. Theft is another issue. We had break-ins, with our chickens being stolen. And lastly, though not much of a challenge, it is something a farmer needs to accept from the get-go, especially a young farmer: there are no weekends, there are no holidays. Monday is just as good as Saturday and just as good as New Year’s Eve.
BD: How did you overcome those challenges?
MM: The roof was repaired. We increased our marketing efforts. We went out “there”, spoke to more resellers about our chickens, we put up board signs, advertised our chickens on social media, spoke about our chickens with every person we engaged.. High feed costs are inevitable. We accept what we cannot change while researching how alternatives could work for us like hydroponic fodder; a low cost nutritious grass. We had to slaughter manually; apart from being expensive, this took a lot of time but the job was done, nonetheless. We used municipality water. We filled and refilled buckets, carrying them to the chicken house until we had electricity again. Theft in our country remains a challenge hard to resolve. We are still working around tightening security with the little resources we have.
BD: How has the entrepreneurship journey been?
MM: One word: Tough! However, there isn’t anything I would rather be doing. It is a fulfilling chaos.
BD: For other youth who would like to become an entrepreneur, where should they start?
MM: Their savings are their funding, so they should start with the little they have. I have realised there isn’t a handful of funders who are willing to fund start-up businesses; funders are interested in funding a business opportunity that has already taken off and is making a profit.
BD: Currently, we are facing major unemployment issues not just in South Africa, but in Africa as a whole. How do we, in your opinion, steer more young people in the direction of creating employment, rather than becoming employees?
MM: Young people must be inspired to be problem solvers in our society. If they can find a problem around them, they must invest money in the cost of the solution and add a mark-up. Of course, there are initial struggles and fears of failure in business, but young people need to be made more aware that jobs are scarce and are currently not as secure as they were a few years back.
BD: You are now an employer. How has the experience of leading people been?
MM: I have managed thus far, only by the power of prayer. If we have to be pragmatic, being young, black and a female employer all at the same time is a challenge in itself. To overcome this, I have encouraged respect, first and foremost, in all discussions, aware that as a team, we have different points of view. This often allows room for compromise, as long as it places the team in the best position for success. Sometimes, being an employer is terrifying as you are now responsible for their family’s income and that responsibility naturally comes with the responsibility of their family’s well-being. Unexpectedly, I have now become a part of their family and when I reflect on it, it is overwhelming filling my heart with joy and renewed strength to never give up. The whole experience has taught me that with a positive attitude, you are able to direct your team anywhere. I can now mentor my employees in such a way that they are able to independently make sound decisions even in my absence. One needs to trust and believe in their ability to do the work. The feeling is beyond description when work is done efficiently without you as an employer facilitating it 24/7. You are able to concentrate on other matters that will assure growth in the business.
BD: What are some skills you obtained in your Bcom studies that you have been able to apply in your business?
MM: Costing my product, preparing my own financial statements, and looking out for tax incentives.
BD: Where to from here?
MM: Many mistakes were initially made which were costly. We are currently restructuring our entire business model, maybe even downsizing, almost like pruning a tree to produce more fruits. It goes without say that the goal is to eventually increase productivity, secure a formal market and ultimately owning the entire poultry value chain. But more than anything, Urban Legae Poultry is a soldier in the fight for #ZeroHunger. We are concerned and looking for ways around resolving the food security issue, not just in South Africa but Africa as a whole.