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A taste of Africa from a family kitchen

Makhamisa Foods delivers unique chilli-based condiments – Terence Pokane Leluma.

TUMISANG NDLOVU: Welcome to this week’s edition of the Moneyweb SME Corner. Today we speak to the CEO of Makhamisa Foods, Terence Pokane Leluma, Welcome.

TERENCE POKANE LELUMA:  Thank you very much for having me here.

TUMISANG NDLOVU: Talk to us about Makhamisa Foods. What is it all about?

TERENCE POKANE LELUMA:  Makhamisa is a company that was established late in 2015 but officially registered in February 2016. We are the manufacturers of condiments, especially the chilli ones. We use jalapeño green chillies and other ingredients in our products, and we provide flavour with spices and chutney. When you taste, you’ll think you have never tasted that before in Africa. So, hence, our tagline, “A taste of Africa”.

TUMISANG NDLOVU: Tell us what’s behind the name Makhamisa. It’s an interesting choice of name.

TERENCE POKANE LELUMA:  The originator of the name is my father-in-law, Thabi Nkomo, who developed this product in his kitchen. I happened to visit him on a particular day way back, and he introduced the product to me. I said, “this is lovely” and asked him to process and package it for commercialisation. The market is ready today, I must say. The meaning of Makhamisa is simply “the one that makes you open your mouth” because of the spiciness.

TUMISANG NDLOVU: It’s very interesting that it’s a family affair. Talk to us about building a brand from something that is born from family.

TERENCE POKANE LELUMA: Look, I think it boils down to compassion and a love for the family and doing what you believe in. It’s also about making sure that you rally people behind you, because I’m the one carrying this vision. So I made sure that before we went out to take this product to where it is, everyone was behind me. I’m glad that we are now touching international markets in terms of trials. Last week we were in Indonesia, attending a food and hotel expo; so there’s massive interest from that side of the world.

TUMISANG NDLOVU: You speak of a market that is ready for a product of this nature and is homegrown. How have you been received here in South Africa?

TERENCE POKANE LELUMA:  South Africa is a very funny market. You must be aware, of course, there are very solid walls to entry, especially for black start-ups. I must emphasise that. But because we believe in what we’re doing there are always options to get there. It might take us a little bit longer to get there, but we are using our existing network, guys who own restaurants. We are supplying them, they are happy with our product, and the repeat orders are massive. That relationship exists. And then word of mouth is actually assisting us to accelerate our market penetration.

TUMISANG NDLOVU: You mentioned the BrownSense Facebook page. I would like to hear your views about how that type of social media has now become a marketing tool for small businesses.

TERENCE POKANE LELUMA:  I once told my sister-in-law, who’s in government, that we were at the BrownSense Market in Midrand. I said to her that I’d seen government come up with lovely initiatives. But these guys know what they are doing. They are practising entrepreneurship, working together, collaborating. It’s a lovely concept – and I must say hats off to the guys at BrownSense. They are incredible, they are intelligent and they are working with us very well. They always give us opportunities whenever we give them a call and ask them to assist. I urge government to support BrownSense, because those are the types of initiatives that are more practical and easy for us as entrepreneurs to understand.

TUMISANG NDLOVU: That said, do you feel that entrepreneurs have enough support in South Africa where running their businesses is concerned, and ensuring that failure is the last option?

TERENCE POKANE LELUMA:  I must say, South Africa is not yet there in terms of seeing entrepreneurship as a solid career to take this country to the next level, and also a very promising avenue to create jobs. People still believe in what “government is going to do for me”. We started this business with my wife, from money from our own pockets and we’ve invested R200 000. We sold a few assets, a bakkie and a flat in order to get going.

We met with government recently and they said, “Well, we can see that you’re in business” – so they supported us. The Innovation Hub gave us about R80 000 to scale up and now we are running around looking for money to expand because the market has accepted us with open arms. So my answer in short is that South Africa is not really there in terms of entrepreneurship support. It takes a man like myself and others out there to make an extra effort and understand that this is my business, this is not government business, and I’ve got to make sacrifices.

I always say that wherever and whenever there is a great job behind anything, results will come. It may take a long time and there are some I know who give up quickly; there’s that attitude – especially in our black communities. They don’t understand that most of the investment, the equity, lies in the time you spend. You know the 10 000-hour rule. I read the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, who talks about the 10 000-hour rule. So invest those hours and always remember that failure is part of life. If you don’t fail it shows that you are not doing enough and you are not learning anything.

TUMISANG NDLOVU: That is so true. Where do people find the product?

TERENCE POKANE LELUMA:  In Soweto it’s available at Bafokeng Corner, The Wine Bar on Vilakazi Street – and that’s where we launched our brand earlier this year on January 26. It’s also available at Blomplek in Orlando East. Also many of the restaurants in Tshwane, including Kudos Craft Café. If you go there you’ll find Makhamisa sauces on the table, nothing else. It doesn’t mean that there are no other sauces; they just believe in the brand, they believe in the product and we say thank you very much, guys.

TUMISANG NDLOVU: Where to for the brand? What can we expect in the near future from Makhamisa Foods?

TERENCE POKANE LELUMA:  We’ve got requests from potential partners to work on the distribution capabilities. It’s a timing issue. I think come the end of June, to be safe – it might be the end of May – we’ll conclude a deal with a black-chip company; they are arguably the biggest fast-moving consumer goods company in Africa.

TUMISANG NDLOVU: We wish you all the best and thank you so much for granting our invitation.

TERENCE POKANE LELUMA:  It’s my pleasure.

TUMISANG NDLOVU: That was Terence Pokane Leluma, the CEO of Makhamisa Foods, in this week’s edition of the Moneyweb SME Corner.



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