JOHANNESBURG – Success is proving sweet for a young entrepreneur who has not allowed challenges to stand on her way to reaching new heights with her business venture.
Beekeeper Mokgadi Mabela, 32, founded Native Nosi in 2015 as means to venture into entrepreneurship, while unwittingly transforming the honey and beekeeping industries in the process.
She notes that she has been selling honey long before 2015, the year she formally registered the honey production business. Nosi means honey bee is Sotho.
Mabela, who holds an international relations degree from the University of Pretoria, says she was inspired by her father Peter to start the business.
“My father is a full-time beekeeper, so we have always had honey at home. I started selling it to my friends and they liked it,” says Mabela, who lives in Pretoria.
She says the word of mouth spread far and wide and people started getting their honey from her.
When they saw that the demand was growing, Peter suggested that she gets her own beehives as he also had clients he was selling to.
The agreement was that Peter would be her mentor and teach her everything she needed to know about bees, managing the beehives, how to extract honey and other technical and farming aspects of the business.
Mabela, however, is frank about the challenges she has gone through, with capital being one of them and breaking into a sector that is not popular being another.
“Being a woman in beekeeping business is not easy, most of the stuff you learn as you go. Not a lot of people do what I do. They get excited to hear and see what I do, and they want to continue supporting me.”
She says South Africa currently consumes more honey than it’s producing. “As as a result a lot of honey is imported into the country to make for the shortfall,” she says.
“The bad side is that these cheap imports are not always the best honey, and retailers are buying cheaper imported honey as it makes business sense to them to buy the cheaper option.”
Another challenge that Mabela has to contend with is that the beekeeping industry is white male dominated.
“It’s poorly represented in terms of colour and gender. It’s bad. The white people are in charge and they are monopolising the industry,” she laments.
However, the married mother of two says she is in the industry to do what she does and not to really change its demographics.
“I got here by default, I needed more honey and I ended up doing what I’m doing. I’m doing what I do in my little corner. I didn’t come to be a game changer, I’m here to make honey.”
Mabela, who won the Woolworths Farming Award in Cape Town in February, says being recognised and honoured has helped boost her morale.
“It reinforces your drive to continue doing what you are doing.”
Native Nosi has forged relationships with crop farmers in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Gauteng, where their beehives are located.
“We don’t have a farm, currently we can’t afford one. It’s very expensive to get a farm,” she says.
Mabela says beekeeping is not about getting any land one could get their hands on, but about getting land that is strategically placed, with good vegetation, and well taken care of, which costs about R2 million.
“We have forged relationships with different crop farmers who have the kind of land that we need. They know that when you have bees in your area they will provide pollination for them,” she says.
“They understand the value of having bees in their farms, so they are open to us having our beehives in their farms.”
Mabela speaks boldly, saying she represents a very large group of people who are not in the industry, adding: “We definitely want to grow so that we can show other females that it’s a doable thing.”
She also wants to create more employment, preserve more bees as they are an endangered species, and also help to preserve the country’s food security.
Native Nosi supplies Lil’ Kitchen in Dainfern, Pure Cafe, and Pure Living, both in Pretoria. But Mabela says most of her clients buy honey from her online store: www.nativenosi.co.za.