It has been a long journey to the top for Kgomotso Lelatela ever since finishing high school.
She studied business management at Rosebank College, but was forced to drop out as her family couldn’t afford to pay her tuition fees.
She then managed to get a job as a cashier at Shoprite and later as a general worker for a local optometrist. When this didn’t work out, she looked for other opportunities elsewhere, but months of unemployment soon turned into years.
She kept looking for a job without no headway then In 2006, she resorted to selling atchar as she had a baby to support.
According to Kgomotso, when her late father refused to financially support her children, it switched on her hustle mode.
Like all ventures, making and selling atchar wasn’t easy at first, clients would return it with complaints that it didn’t taste nice but she soldiered on.
She reached out for help from other sellers but no one responded to her pleas. No one wanted to release their secret atchar ingredient.
It was only later on with the help of a wholesaler, that Kgomotso discovered her own secret ingredient. All that was left was a plan to sell it.
She then offered clients the option of only paying on month-end after they received their salaries but unfortunately, only pensioners would pay, and people her age would just disappear.
This tough lesson inspired her to diversify her income and venture into fruit and vegetable gardening.
When she started her agribusiness, she was a laughing stock in her community. They would mock her on a daily basis and compare her to peers who were chasing buses to work, while she continued playing mad with mud.
Many people, including her family, did not understand her dream of creating an opportunity through gardening.
When her mother tried to persuade her to get the so called “real job,” she refused citing two reasons – firstly, she didn’t know where to look for one and also, she just wanted to see her crops develop and make a living out of them.
According to Kgomotso, she had no idea what she was getting herself into, but one thing for sure, she knew that she’ll be successful one day.
She went to Emdeni Skills Development Centre in Soweto, but was unable to join as the program full at that time. She then approached Ben Thenjwayo, her next-door neighbour, who had already graduated from the institution and was working on a hydroponics project at a closeby school.
Although she couldn’t follow Ben’s path of hydroponics, she still absorbed a few tricks about transplanting and other operational matters from her late neighbor. Ben also taught the importance of soil preparation before planting.
At that time, she had no tools nor proper land, the only available land was the dumpsite in her backyard. She’d go to scrapyards looking for fencing and wander around abandoned areas looking for wood and other necessary stuff for her garden.
In the end, she managed to get all that was required to truly establish her backyard garden.
When it was time to harvest, she started advertising her produce on social media, she even sold to school teachers.
She grew the business as time went on and then bigger orders started rolling in, with some even requesting precise quantities on a weekly basis. She also approached a local Pick N Pay to supply it with spinach.
Besides the spinach, Kgomotso also grows strawberries, potatoes carrots, and other veggies.
According to Kgomotso, farming wasn’t only beneficial to her financially, but also her mental health. Whenever she goes through a rough patch, she simply returns to her luscious garden, her plants have the ability to calm her down.
Kgomotso remains committed to growing her agribusiness, she also has plans on furthering her studies in both business and agriculture.
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