Building capacity in the SMME sector

Business Skills for South Africa

Entrepreneurs should 'never stop learning'

“Starting a new business is not just about making money. To be truly successful requires dedication and passion, and complete focus on making your venture work. It also means you never stop learning.”

Trudy MatlalaThis is the advice of a former school teacher from Tshwane who now runs a successful broiler chicken farm in Pyramid to the north of the city. Trudy Matlala (41) owns Siphesihle Business, which has just been awarded a contract to supply 30 000 chickens per month to a local abattoir.

Trudy credits some of her success to the business skills training she received from BSSA as part of PwC’s ongoing Faranani Rural Women Training Initiative. The Faranani initiative was launched by PwC in 2006 as the company’s contribution to developing entrepreneurship among women.

She started her business in 2007 in pursuit of a lifelong dream to become a chicken farmer. “My granny had a small garden with chickens at her home in Witbank, and I’ve always known this is what I want to do. I was also inspired by my husband, Solly, who farmed with chickens for two years,” she says.

Like many budding entrepreneurs, Trudy faced some tough challenges. She secured a bond to acquire a 10-hectare plot, and then built poultry houses to accommodate 4 000 birds. Her first cycle of chickens was all but wiped out by the highly contagious Newcastle disease, however, leading to huge financial loss.

“I learnt then that in any business start-up, being a hands-on owner-manager is crucial. One cannot do it by remote control. I was living in town at the time, but moved to the farm after that disaster,” Trudy says. She also attended study groups offered by the Department of Agriculture to expand her knowledge of diseases affecting poultry.

“What I did not do was give up. I persevered since I realised the business had the potential of providing my family with a sustainable income, and I wanted to leave a legacy for my children.”

Since those early days, Trudy has been able to increase the capacity of her poultry houses from 4 000 to 30 000 birds. Her customers were initially farm workers from the surrounding farms, and passers-by at busy centres in the areas around Pyramid. Today, she sells directly to live-chicken vendors who buy in bulk (50 to 5 000 birds) and collect their stock from the farm.

Siphesihle Business presently employs two permanent and two casual workers, but will provide job opportunities for eight permanent workers once her new contract with the abattoir comes into effect in January 2012.

In July 2011, Trudy was one of a group of women trained by BSSA in practical marketing, practical pricing and costing, and effective financial management. “Learning how to conduct market research and draw up a business plan has been invaluable in my business,” she says.

“I would advise anyone wanting to start a new business to do the BSSA courses. I could have avoided many costly mistakes if I had completed some business skills training, especially a financial management course, before I started out.”

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