When their call center business failed, followed by their marriage in 2013, Mikie Monoketsi was left with nothing – but it was during this rough patch that she settled on her next venture that would ultimately become her saving grace.
Mikie and her then husband launched a call centre business using her life savings without doing much research, following what others were doing in that industry.
They went into the business thinking they wouldn’t lose anything but when it was all said and done, both the business and marriage went down the drain.
According to Mikie, she had a choice to either save them both despite her depleted confidence, or move on with her life. In the end, she chose to let go of both, and immediately opened herself up to a world of opportunities.
Having decided to move on with her life, a rollercoaster ride soon followed. The bills were piling up, and trying to keep the household running while at the same time, dealing with divorce proceedings, proved to be taxing and impossible to do without money.
Mama’s Spices and Herbs
After the divorce, Mikie ran to fitness to take her mind off the stress.
While at the gym, she overheard 2 women talking about someone who ran a spice company, and then she approached them to find out more about it. When she eventually met the lady in question, she was fascinated by her ideas.
A couple of months later, she joined the company as an equal business partner, and also became the face of the product.
She left the spice group a year later, but was still able to access the spices, and continued to sell them on her own. In 2012, she formally registered her business, Mama’s Spices and Herbs with just R10 000.
Soon enough, she found out that starting a business is one thing, while maintaining it is another story.
To market her new baby, Mekie used unconventional strategies. She parked her car in familiar townships and began speaking to people – some were even generous enough to allow her into their kitchens.
She was shocked to learn how many people in the townships were using cheap and low-quality spices, which contained high levels of MSG, salt, preservatives, bulking agents and additives – which all negatively impacted health, and contributed to high levels of hypertension.
The insights she gained from this research formed the basis of her business.
Even after doing her thorough research and knowing she was onto something big, her spice company almost didn’t materialise. In order to produce spices in South Africa, proper certification is required, as well as a fully equipped manufacturing facility – Mikie didn’t have either of the two.
Luckily, she had maintained a good relationship with her previous partners and managed to get her spice range certified.
Just a couple of months after starting, she learned an important lesson – factor in all the costs. Even though her turnover was great, she wasn’t making any money because she didn’t cost everything, including the samples she gave out. She also realised that using the business as a personal piggy bank hampered its growth.
To grow sales, she approached an existing businessman who delivered potatoes to Kota restaurants in Cosmo City. She arranged a deal and tapped into his existing clientele.
She then decided to hire the Kota restaurants as agents, selling directly to their customers on a commission basis. That is how she saved her business and in the process built a national network of agents.
From the success of the spice business, Mekie went on to launch other businesses.
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