Building A Legacy - Business Media MAGS

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Building A Legacy

In Africa, at least 63 per cent of women in the non-agricultural labour force are self-employed in the informal sector. Tersia Booyzen talks to two women creating small yet sustainable solutions.

Sowing The Seeds

– Joy Phala

“Don’t follow your passion; follow your curiosity”, this sage advice comes from Joy Phala, founder and owner of Organic Kitchen Gardens.

After completing school, Phala earned a BCom degree from the University of the Witwatersrand and went on to study for a postgraduate diploma in internal auditing. She then worked as a management consultant at EOH Public Sector.

Her epiphany happened when she developed postnatal depression after the birth of her first child. For therapy, she started cooking and wanted to grow the ingredients herself. “We were living in an apartment and I planted in containers — my first effort was a total failure,” she recalls.

Phala grew up in a village in Limpopo where her grandmother and mother grew their own food. “I had to help in the garden as part of my chores, but I didn’t really understand the process and I certainly wasn’t passionate about it.

“ When my first edible garden effort failed, I went to the library to read up on and gain an understanding of how plants work, the science behind growing organic food and the way African cultures have always done it.”

Her second garden was a success and as she started posting about it online, people began to show an interest and ask questions, and so the seeds for her new venture were planted.

“When I started helping people, I was asked about flowering plants and I became interested in learning more about edible flowers. I went on to study landscape design and discovered that I was naturally a creative rather than a numbers person.

“If you have a good product or service you will find a market. The barrier to entry is not like it was back in the day. Now if you have a phone or a computer you can start a business. Rather do something and fail than not do it because of a lack of money,” Phala advises.

And if it fails? Phala summarises what she has learnt: “Keep asking why and adjust what you are offering until it meets the market’s demands. Creativity and leadership are the skills of the future; combine that with curiosity and embrace the opportunities that come your way.”

Formalising The Informal

– Elize Lamprecht

Baking, cooking and crafts form the bulk of women’s work in the informal sector. Koljander home industry, based in Melville, Johannesburg, is an award-winning co-op that offers a more sustainable option than going it alone.

“The elected board members each have a specific portfolio, with a chairperson playing the role of co-ordinator of all the different aspects of the business and the vision towards the future: one crafts/gifts portfolio; two baking portfolios, and one financial portfolio,” Elize Lamprecht, the CEO, explains.

“Members get paid every month for products sold, minus 27.5 per cent + VAT, which is the commission that goes towards financing Koljander’s overheads. The shop is like a nonprofit organisation and takes only the minimum to pay its overheads.

“If you spend a day producing and most of your products sell, you will be able to make a decent ‘salary’. Crafts will seldom earn you a competitive salary, but popular products like savouries or cake sell much more and faster. It is, however, not viable if you do not work on a big scale.”

The benefits to members are manifold. “You are part of an established business with existing infrastructure. You bring in your products, put them on the shelves and go home. Staff will handle the selling of your products and let you know of any orders. Everything is well organised with proper systems in place,” Lamprecht concludes.

Image: Joy Phala

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