Imagine being presented with an opportunity of a lifetime; to be part of a business incubation programme yet having to come up with a fresh and out of the box idea that has not yet dominated your community.
If you don’t you lose your spot on the incubation programme.
This was the reality confronting agro-processing entrepreneur S’busisiwe Sithebe when she became part of the De Beers Voorspoed Mining Enterprise Development incubation programme in 2017.
Her love for food and her background in the food industry had been enough to get into the programme but her innovation would keep her.
The programme administrators presented a feasibility study on the Fezile Dabi region and told the incumbents that the construction, catering and cleaning services sectors were over saturated in the district.
Ensuring her spot is secured
S’busisiwe only had one option, to think broader. She had always been passionate about food since her high school years when she selected to do home economics as a subject.
She was the family chef, cooking at every family gathering and event. Cooking was all she wanted to do, but it was simply not enough for this programme.
“I considered a restaurant or even being a private chef but the circumstances did not allow at the time,” she says.
“Somehow when I got home, I started talking to my mom about my homework to come with an innovative idea for this industry. I was hungry and there was nothing prepared in the house. My mom suggested that I check the cupboard.
“I saw the bottle of preserved beetroot I had prepared the previous December in 2016 and that was a light bulb moment for me,” says S’busisiwe, who hails from Kroonstad.
At the time she could not think of black person from her community who was involved in food preservation in the formal market, and the rest as they say is history.
Today she is becoming a prominent figure in the agro-processing sector and has big plans for her food label, Buska Foods. She produces beetroot, tomato puree, carrot and sweetcorn salad and as well as crushed chillies and has just launched a business selling food in her hometown of Kroonstad.
The business journey so far
Over the past three years she has received overwhelming support from the business development sector and the community including the National Youth Development Agency which gave her equipment and a website.
Then the Small Enterprise Development Agency assisted her with the business plan, marketing material and exposure to attend their trade shows where she found herself in Ethiopia with the Department of Small Businesses attending the World Export Forum.
She concedes that even tough each day brings its own successes she has had some challenges.
“Running the business has been a rollercoster ride because starting everything from scratch presents a lot of challenges especially when you have to tap into the market that is dominated by the big players.”
She laments difficulty to access retail market as one of the hardest challenges.
“In order to find yourself on the same retail shelves with the big guys you have to prove yourself. But things such as capacity, operational space and capital often are impediments to the process, because if it’s not this it’s another”.