Ncumisa Mkabile had built a successful catering business in Khayelitsha when the Covid-19 pandemic hit – putting a sudden and brutal stop to her only source of income.
Never one to sit back and wait for someone else to fix her problems, Ncumisa realised that even if she couldn’t prepare tasty food for her clients and community, they still needed fresh produce to make their own meals under lockdown conditions.
That’s how the seed of the idea for Dawana Fresh Produce was planted – and now it has grown into a flourishing business.
The business farms popular crops like spinach, cabbage, and green peppers, and now sells its produce to private customers and retailers, who all recognise and depend on the quality of Ncumisa’s produce.
“One of my biggest challenges has been finding land to farm on because demand for our produce has grown far beyond what we can grow on the land we have,” she says. “The other is accessing funding to expand, and for running costs when cash flow is tight.”
Despite those challenges, Ncumisa has won several awards in recognition of her determination to succeed, including being named Newcomer of the Year by the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa last year, after winning a Ugandan-based start-up award in 2020, that recognised her as an ‘Against All Odds Entrepreneur’. She has also worked with Trace Urban, Blue Ribbon, and Unicef, and has attracted the attention of major media houses too.
She has become a farming influencer for Standard Bank and was nominated by Sunlight in 2020 as a Heroine, after which they sponsored her business with R200 000. She used that money to diversify her business, and now raises broiler chickens, buying them at a day old and having them slaughtered for meat when they are six weeks old.
“The biggest highlight for me has been creating job opportunities for people in my community, along with being able to supply local supermarkets with fresh produce,” she says.
“They like buying local because the produce hasn’t been transported from far away, so it’s fresh. The community also likes buying my produce because they like supporting someone local.”
One of Ncumisa’s most valuable tools is her mobile phone, which she uses to connect with her private and supermarket clients to confirm orders, and to navigate to customers when she delivers produce to them. She also loves the convenience of virtual meetings, which means that she doesn’t have to leave the farm and travel far to engage with potential clients or investors.
“I also use social media to market my produce,” she says.
Already an inspiration in her community, Ncumisa has the following advice for others who are thinking of starting their own business:
You are a product of your thoughts. Whatever you think about most of the time is what you’ll create in life.
You always receive what you give
That means if you want help, be helpful. If you want honest relationships, be truthful. If you want success, help others get what they want. If you want love, be loving.
You can’t succeed alone
Every story of success is a story of people working together, each contributing their unique talents, skills, and abilities. Do what you do best, and let others fill in the gaps.
Perseverance always wins
You can’t fail if you don’t quit, so always look for – and find – another way to make something work. You can’t be a winner if you are still thinking about quitting.
Take time to meditate
Take time from your business every day to meditate, even if it’s just for 10-15 minutes. It will make you more effective, and you will accomplish much more.
Ncumisa can be found on Facebook as “Ncumisa Miesah Mkabile”, or on Instagram as “Ncumisa_farmer”. She offered these tips to South African entrepreneurs as part of MTN’s Made for Skhokho initiative, an exciting business and networking event that supports entrepreneurs by connecting them with business experts and other local business owners.
MTN’s Made for Skhokho Pay As You Go bundles help emerging entrepreneurs keep connected via tailored data and connectivity packages that have been designed to meet their needs: easy sign up, wide network coverage, no formal business registration needed, access to social media, and tailored for use during business hours, to help them reach more customers.
Follow @SundayWorldZA on Twitter and @sundayworldza on Instagram, or like our Facebook Page, Sunday World, by clicking here for the latest breaking news in South Africa. To Subscribe to Sunday World, click here.