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Nkomamota Organic Farmers Group: Dianah Shivambu

A former teacher takes up organic farming and secures success.

Juliet Pitman

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Dianah Shivambu of Nkomamota Organic Farmers Group

Dianah Shivambu never imagined she’d be a farmer. But it’s a profession that suits the former schoolteacher down to the ground – and one in which she’s enjoying enormous success. Hers is a story that proves that nothing is impossible in business if one has passion, dedication and a willingness to learn.

She’s turned the Limpopo family-owned farm into a successful enterprise and managed to secure access to lucrative organic markets in the process.

“I knew nothing about farming when I started,” Shivambu says, but her combination of self-motivation and desire to learn has meant opportunities have found her. Cashing in part of her teacher’s pension in 2005, Shivambu used R80 000 to purchase 1 000 chickens and equipment.

She also joined a group of 18 emerging farmers called the Nkomamota Organic Farmer’s group, and was given the opportunity to attend a week’s worth of training at the Agricultural Research Council on organic farming methods, the cost of which was covered by government.

But perhaps one of the most important relationships she’s forged to date is one with SA Agri Academy (SAAA), an NGO that provides market information, training, business advice and coaching, and strategic market linkages for emerging farmers in the agricultural sector.

“SA Agri sources funding and this meant that my training with them was free of charge,” says Shivambu. Through SAAA, she has been sent to the Netherlands and Britain to learn about how organic farmers are securing commercial success.

But learning how to farm is only half the battle won; one of the biggest challenges emerging farmers face is gaining access to markets, and a lack of critical business skills. But in 2006 Shivambu was lucky enough to be selected to attend SAAA’s Market Development Programme.

“What I learned on that course has been critical to the success of my farm as a business. It taught me to understand things like input cost, break-even points and profit margins, all of which I have used to negotiate fair, market-related prices,” she says.

Through SAAA she’s also learned the importance of being HACCP-certified (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), of following Global GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) and about things like fair trade. “All of this gears us to be able to access international markets as well,” she says.

Shivambu lists national supermarket chain Pick ‘n Pay as one of her most important clients, no mean feat given how difficult it is for small start-up producers to secure such big contracts. “The large supermarket chains, which is where we all want to be, require consistent volumes, and many emerging farmers aren’t yet able to produce what’s required.”

To address this challenge, Shivambu has been instrumental in forming farm clusters that can produce volumes needed to get their foot in the door. The Limpopo Organic Farmers Association, of which Shivambu is an executive member,plays a key role in this regard, as well as offering mentorship to other emerging farmers.

Shivambu’s farm has grown steadily, thank sto the training she’s received and the effort she’s put into ensuring she meets all organic standards. Her brood of chickens has grown to 6 000, and she produces brinjals, butternut, red and brown onions and cherry tomatoes.

“We have some baby marrows germinating as well.” Currently she only farms two hectares of her 124 in total, but she has big plans for development. In the short-term she plans to farm 15 hectares of land, has built a lodge and is planning a conference centre which will be open to the public.

“What I need now is my own packaging house so that I can own the full value chain, from growing right through to packaging and delivery.” For that, she’ll need capital, but if her track record is anything to go by, Shivambu’s just the person to find a way.“As they say, a boer maak a plan!” she laughs. Contact: +27 72 1222 576

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton

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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.

CEOwise

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Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect

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It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.

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“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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