Simon Kerr, a mentor on the SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Programme, first met Mahlape Moalosi, a participant in that programme, on a dusty Free State afternoon in mid-winter. The dry wind brought tears to his eyes. He had seen Mahlape of Blue Dot Treats at a few of the other workshops and she was always quiet, to the point of diffidence and her articulation in English wasn’t good. Simon often felt that she was out of her depth amongst a group of vibrant participants. Could she benefit from this programme?
He met with Mahlape to discuss her status within the programme and help her refocus on the development of her business, Blue Dot Treats, a food vending enterprise based in Ficksburg. Her business turnover was around R200 per day.
A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss
Mahlape had considered ways in which she could grow her business, but the main constraint was that the business didn’t make enough money – she could only carry three baskets at a time. The training that Mahlape received at the workshops helped her realise that she needed to understand her business better. She needed to learn how to do food costings and recipe planning to maximise her food offerings and make a profit. This is where our journey of discovery started.
Mahlape, who had never used a laptop was supplied with one by the SAB Foundation and soon she became a whiz at emails and spreadsheets. She mastered the fundamentals of food costing – her talents would have been the envy of any big hotel Food & Beverage Manager! Her business began to show a small profit and Mahlape was able to help fund her daughter’s university education and replace her tattered old shoes with a new pair of takkies to walk to work in. The highlight of the school holidays was to be able to order a pizza for the family to share and give Mum the night off from cooking!
Bright, Shiny and New
In consultation with her mentor, Mahlape decided to use her grant funding to buy a food trailer from where she could not only prepare her wares but also sell them. She decided to employ runners to sell her food in the regular spots around town. The Tholoana programme had run its course, but Mahlape was not one to give up or rush into something without the right preparation.
Mahlape’s funding for new equipment was approved, but not everything was smooth sailing – her order had been placed too late in the year. It was not until the new year, some 10 months after her programme had run its course that her dreams were realised and her food trailer was delivered. The branding was impressive and the trailer was crammed full of all the equipment she might need to prepare and sell her healthy foods to the public of Ficksburg.
Simon was there to help deliver Mahlape’s trailer early that January and that day his eyes were filled with tears of joy and happiness. He felt proud to be standing alongside Mahlape’s family as this strong woman received a life-changing opportunity. The beautiful thing about the Tholoana Programme is that everyone feels each other’s joy, pain and struggles, and her fellow programme members were there to support her and share in her happiness.
Simon popped in to see Mahlape a few weeks after she had started trading from her new kitchen and she told him with a radiant smile that her turnover for the first few weeks had been over a R1000 per day! Simon thought back to that dusty Free State afternoon when he had first met Mahlape and realised that persistence pays off.
Read more about the Tholoana Program and other business acceleration programmes here.
Fresh, healthy meals for the community
About the Author:
Simon Kerr is Fetola Mentor that has worked with the Fetola and SAB Tholoana teams for over three years. His skill set is suited to the hospitality and tourism sector because he is a qualified and accredited chef and he has also successfully run restaurants and guest houses in South Africa.
He has won multiple awards ranging from being voted as one of SA’s Top Restaurants for Chef Simon & The Phatt Chef Restaurant to GETAWAY Magaizine’s TOP 25 Breakfasts in South Africa.