Ourlives Marketplace celebrates female entrepreneurs

Ourlives Marketplace celebrates female entrepreneurs


Entrepreneurship in South Africa still has a long way to go, however, there are initiatives put in place that aim to spearhead the growth and support entrepreneurs. 
 
In the 2022 State of the Nation Address, President Ramaphosa announced that a total of R6.5 billion has been allocated in the latest budget for small business incentives. An estimated R2.2 billion will be transferred to the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) while R107 million will be allocated for the refurbishment of 27 industrial parks in townships and rural areas. Furthermore, the Industrial Development Corporation is targeting R10 billion of own and partner funding for women-empowered businesses over the next five years. This is a great win for small to medium enterprises.
 
As much as there are initiatives and funding in place to help entrepreneurs, a lot still needs to be done at a grass root level and that is where digital businesses such as Ourlives Marketplace fit in. Ourlives Marketplace is a digital marketplace that gives local brands and businesses a platform to showcase their products and services. It aims to make it easier to access these small businesses thus improving their digital footprint, and creating brand awareness thus increasing their reach. The platform puts the brands in front of potential clients who are actively searching for local brands.
 
In celebration of Women's month, we posed questions to three female entrepreneurs who are listed on Ourlives Marketplace to better understand how it is being a female entrepreneur and how platforms such as Ourlives have helped them on their entrepreneurial journey, especially during the pandemic.
 
 
Phuti Ngoasheng Kabasa is the founder of Mopani Queens, which manufactures Mopani Bites (https://ourlives.co.za/product/bbq-flavoured-mopani-bites-30g/), a new take on snacks that celebrate proudly Mzansi delicacies such as Masonja (Mopani worms). Kabasa found a niche in the market as it created a bite-sized flavourful snack that spoke to the SA market.
 
Q: How is it being a female entrepreneur in Mzansi? 

 It was scary in the beginning. When you're still new in the field and don't have the contacts but I soon realised that the more contacts one makes, the more help you will get. 
 
There are a lot of women's support groups out there, I have a support group that I joined a while back where I met a lot of women that I'm still in contact with, even to this day where we assist each other with ideas and you know, building ourselves up as women business owners. I am also attached to the Wakanda food accelerator, another support group that offers a lot of support and exposes you to people who are looking to fund female businesses. 
 
So I guess if you are still new, it can be daunting but once you get on your feet and become familiar with women in business and you do get a lot of support. 
 
Q: What is your competitive edge? What sets you apart? 

Our differentiator is that we are the pioneers of flavoured snacking Mopani worms. We are different from everybody because we want to introduce Mopani worms to a wider audience. We want people who grew up not eating them to experience the worm and we thought the one way to do that is through snacking. Mopani bites seem to be a snack people relate to. So that's why you see us flavouring them and getting them ready to eat.
 
That is also why you see us now putting them into retailers. We want people to think beyond just eating pan worms as a relish that was part of a meal. We want people to see how versatile the Mopani worm is, to imagine a world where it is normal and acceptable to eat insects, you know, as a protein source, and yeah, that's what sets us apart.
 
Q: How can platforms such as Ourlives Marketplace help your business? 

It helps to get the word out there. When you're on platforms that people are following and familiar with. It gives your brand some sort of endorsement that you're reliable, you know, people will often tell you that I bought something from an online shop on Facebook or whatever, and I got scammed. So you would want a reliable platform that lists reliable service providers.
 
So platforms such as Ourlives Marketplace provides emerging entrepreneurs with surety that this type of service provider that's listed on this particular platform is somebody that you can do business with somebody reliable, you know, it also helps educate the customers about your brand, the story behind your brand what you're trying to say with your brand. 
 
We want people to eat bugs every day. We strongly believe in edible insects as part of a nutritional and wholesome diet. So a platform like yourselves helps push out the message out there that it is advisable and something that you want to get into an unhealthy and healthier option to have insects on your plate so to speak.
 
Q: What do you love most about platforms such as Ourlives Marketplace?

 It's very expensive starting a business. It is very, very expensive. I'm sure you can relate to that as well, you're starting a business and it may seem like we are benefiting more from you and you're not benefiting and you know, yeah. That they're free and they are affordable. Yeah. And they allow customers to interact with businesses that may not necessarily have a website or have you know, a, you know, like a helpline or whatever and customers can directly, you know, get in touch with businesses like myself or like ours. On your website. 
 
Q: Any last words for fellow entrepreneurs?
I wish them strength and growth and positivity and a happy woman's month
 

Our second entrepreneur is Ms Vhongani Shumba, CEO and founder of mi butter SA (https://ourlives.co.za/product/mi-butter-strawberry-honey-orange/), a South African brand of compounded herb butter that can be used when frying, cooking, baking, roasting or as a spread.
 
Q: How is it being a female entrepreneur in Mzansi? 

Mzansi is filled with amazing opportunities and there are amazing things that female entrepreneurs are doing. But for female entrepreneurs, there are more closed doors than those open to male entrepreneurs and youth-owned businesses. Even though more than half of South Africa’s population is female, only 34% of small and medium-sized enterprises are women-led, according to a Facebook, World Bank, and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development joint survey. 
 
It’s a sad reality and what I have gathered from the engagements and interactions I have had with other female entrepreneurs is that despite the odds that are against us, passion for our business, some call them their “baby” is what’s keeping us strong even when times are tough, because we are resilient, and are determined to survive regardless of what gets thrown at us, be cultural and political barriers, a lack of mentoring, a serious lack of female funding mechanism, social challenges, balancing family and business life we keep soldering on “aluta continua”.
 
I believe now is the time now for the both public and private sectors especially in the Agro-processing industry to come to the party “I can only speak to that cause that’s the industry I am operating in” and work with SMMEs to accelerate efforts to dismantle challenges that we are facing as women entrepreneurs. A lot needs to be done still to address social and gender Inequality that still hinders women-owned business progress. 
 
It is not all doom and gloom as an entrepreneur in Mzansi, there is a lot that has been done but they don’t address the kind of challenges women entrepreneurs face daily we need tailor-made solutions just for women that address issues like women-specific funding mechanisms, support network systems, balancing business and family life, mentorship to help navigate the challenges of starting and growing a business, etc. 
 
Q: What is your competitive edge? What sets you apart? 

The confidence to make challenging decisions and see them through to the end regardless of the outcome.
Comfortable with failure and knowing it is part of life and seeing it as an opportunity to gain experience and grow.
The ability to adapt to changes, a skill that is growing on me as I get older. 
Not been scared to put in the work to create my reputation in my own right.
Being a diligent worker, creative and aspiring to be an honourable businesswoman.
 
Q: How can platforms such as Ourlives Marketplace help your business?
To create awareness for mi butter in the digital space & to encourage people to buy and support local products.
 
Q: What do you love most about platforms such as Ourlives Marketplace?
That you are promoting proudly South African brands, assisting SMMEs to boost their sales, and creating awareness for their products.
 
Ourlives Marketplace has built the most trusted destination for local brands, it's all about supporting local brands and helping create and maintain jobs by helping them succeed. Do your bit and support proudly Mzansi businesses or become part of the growing network by getting your small business listed.
 
For Bongie Mahlangu famously known as Ous'Bongie wa B's Atchar (https://twitter.com/bongs_mahlangu ) owner of B's Atchar being a female entrepreneur is not easy. She adds that "especially hustling on the streets because a lot of things are happening (GBV & human trafficking) but there's no other choice than to show up every day with faith."

Despite the challenges she says that her brand is now well known so that's what sets her apart from other entrepreneurs. For her Ourlives Marketplace has assisted her in reaching more clients because it promotes small businesses which is a great initiative.