Chilli adds spice to subsistence farmers

chiladiddo---textLeeko Nkala and Mmabatho Morudi’s chilli business is making a difference in subsistence farmers lives. (Image: Shanduka Black Umbrellas)

A business that grew out of a hobby and a love of all things chilli will be beneficial to subsistence farmers.

Building on their a passion for cooking with chilli, Leeko Nkala and her cousin Mmabatho Morudi have launched their own brand of chilli sauce, Chilladiddo, which is fast catching on with those who enjoy a kick in their food. The thriving little business churns out about 150 bottles of the sauce a day, and each bottle sells for R40.

According to Nkala, their creation is a lot chunkier than most sauces. It has a homemade feel, texture and taste to it – and it’s hot.

Nkala previously had a restaurant franchise. She noticed that her establishment, as well as many others, served bland chilli with their meals. In an online news article published by Shanduka Black Umbrellas (SBU), a non-profit company that supports and develops black entrepreneurs, she said: “I am a chilli or hot sauce lover myself, and the plain green chilli served with olive oil was often not exciting enough, and didn’t complement or enhance the flavour of most foods. So I started experimenting with different spices in my home kitchen, burnt my tongue a couple of times, until two main recipes were finalised which we began to market.

“Our range of products includes the unique Chilladiddo relishes, developed mainly as a versatile condiment, to be used to complement or enhance the flavour of a wide variety of foods. It has bite.”

THE BEGINNING

In 2010, Nkala came up with a few recipes that needed to be formalised. The two tested the product and in 2012, they got the business up and running as a full-time endeavour.

To expand and see their business thrive, they joined SBU’s entrepreneurship programme to learn the skills needed to take their company to a new level. It was a decision that has already paid huge dividends.

“The next step was joining SBU because I wanted grow the business, formalise all its operations and stop running it from the heart. My goal was to create a successful and sustainable food manufacturing company that [would] not only put South Africa on the map but [would] also help to create economic opportunities for rural growers living below the poverty line,” Nkala explained.

The partners joined Shanduka’s pre-incubation stage in April 2013 and went into full incubation in September that year.

Shanduka has given office support and a structure to the business. Added to this are mentors with a wealth of experience and knowledge who guide the business through its various phases of establishment and growth. They also helped the partners to get appointments with one of the country’s leading wholesalers with a view to selling their products.

Shortly thereafter, Nkala and Morudi received R160 000 in the 2014 SAB Kick-start Awards for the success of their business.

HOW THE BUSINESS WORKS

Hailing from the farming province of North West, the duo spoke of their passion for preserving and showcasing the country’s rich heritage through food. “Our business interests lie in agro-processing, a highly labour intensive industry, which helps to create more jobs and develop the potential of people in these rural areas,” said Nkala.

Rural farmers in Makapanstad and Winterveld are already reaping the benefits of the sauces as 80% of the ingredients used in Chilladiddo products are supplied by them. Also, 10% of the revenue generated from sales is invested in a fund set up for rural farmers to help develop their businesses further. This should ensure they can continue supplying quality raw ingredients as well as guarantee a market for their produce.

The business employs two full-time and eight part-time people. “We are not just about profits,” added Morudi. “We want to uplift rural communities too and we have delicious products that we are proud of.”

According to the pair, their inspiration comes from their grandfather, Dr Sam Motsuenyane. Following many years of working for the government, he continues to develop the people in the community from which he comes. He has organised them into farmer co-operatives which today supply citrus products to a major juice manufacturer.

Nkala and Morudi dream of owning the whole production process of their business. They said: “We will have our own production facility compliant with all the industry standards and will supply to the biggest retailers in the country and abroad. We also want to develop more rural subsistence farmers as we go by creating a minimum of 50 jobs in the second year of full operation.”

They believe business should not be about the bottom line but should be encouraged by passion. “Once you have identified that one thing that gets the fire burning in your core, you then need to form linkages with a reputable incubation programme that can help you turn this passion into a sustainable business with structure and systems.”

Future plans revolve around exporting their products and growing the business. It includes having their own label, Made with Rural, which endorses quality products from the rural communities which it takes to the world.