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Mohair Could Be Nowhere

Thousands of lives are bound up with the Karoo. Many ambitious entrepreneurs make up the biggest mohair industry in the world and fear fracking.




The Herold father-son duo are the biggest mohair farmers in Graaff-Reinet, in the Eastern Cape; and the second biggest in the country. South Africa has 900 mohair farmers who make up 54% of the world’s production. The Herolds used innovative farming techniques, foresight and discipline to expand their land from 7,000 to 16,000ha. They lease another 6,000ha.

Richard Herold, aged 30, has his sights set on becoming the world’s number one mohair farmer; if hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, doesn’t put him out of business first.

“All our drinking water comes from underground, if it is contaminated our animals won’t have water to drink, that’ll be the end of small-stock farming. Water is the key,” says Herold.

Richard Herold

“Fracking would probably kill the mohair industry, because the area which is earmarked, like Jansenville and Beaufort West, is the main area of mohair production,” says Justin Coetzee of the South African Mohair growers association.

Like many Karoo farmers, they support attorney Derek Light who is battling it out against international energy companies wanting to pursue hydraulic fracturing for shale gas.

“The traffic and damage to the roads [is another concern], it would lead to an increase of stock theft and damage to property. A lot of the things are unknown, it might even be a positive, it might create a lot of jobs and incomes for people, but you don’t know. The possibility, if you look at what happened in America, I wouldn’t want that to happen here,” says Herold.

He believes fracking would change the way of life in the Karoo: “The big part of the attraction and value that we place on it, is the isolation. If you were to drive past drilling rigs it wouldn’t feel like you were in the Karoo,” he says.

“We have a farm in western Australia—where we keep feral goats for meat production—in a mining area. I’ve seen the impact where farming and mining mix and well… they don’t mix, it changes the dynamics completely,” he says.

While Herold’s great-grandfather bought the land in 1922; it was his grandfather who bought the animals. Seventy per cent were sheep and the rest goats. David Herold, his father, turned it into a mohair farm.

“We sold all our sheep two years ago and we’re slowly replacing them with goats,” says Herold. They now have 95% goats and some cattle. While other mohair farmers have a weaning rate of around 75%—they rear 75 kids off of 100 reproducing ewes—he has a 100% weaning rate. “That’s not to say we’re producing 100 from 100, we do have a loss of 10% but we also have twins; one makes up for the other,” he says smiling.

When he’s not fighting off invading jackals and lynxes, from nearby game reserves, or attending meetings held by gas companies; he’s doing the day-to-day things to improve the quality of his mohair to get the best price.

“With our kid hair, we’re generally in the top three to five [sellers] in South Africa. But we can certainly improve on that. It’s nice to know that there is still a lot to be done to prepare our clip better. Our fiber was contaminated with grass seed last year, that’s something you can manage but you sometimes have to put the animals’ nutrition ahead of its fiber. Sometimes you have to make the decision to put them on the best food regardless of what happens to their hair,” says Herold.

“We had the highest ever adult mohair price per kilogram two seasons ago, which lasted for one week and then someone else got it. But that was a bin, so it was a compilation of other people’s mohair, so it wasn’t just one producer,” he says proudly.

While he is a registered stud breeder, he doesn’t sell them; he keeps the best genetic material for his farm.  He also puts the kids into a high-grazing, fenced off pen.

“If they grow up well and have a good foundation it gives them a head-start for the rest of their lives. They’re like children. It’s a good investment now for the future,” says Harold.

He speaks with great admiration when explaining his father’s innovative farming practices. Through his lateral thinking and decades of experience, he has successfully reduced the labor-intesity of ‘shedding’ goats after the goats have been shorn. While other farmers usually put their sheds near trees or shrubs which are natural forms of shelter and might decide not to shed them on certain nights on that account; David decided to strategically place them in open veld.

“Psychologically you know you have to shed them because there’s no other option. It usually takes quite a lot of effort and manpower, but in this way you’re forcing yourself to be disciplined because it’s open; one man can even do it, whereas others might require a few men to do so. Also they’re quite intelligent, you can train them. We’ll shear them every night regardless, so they’ll go automatically. It’s a habit you train into them, and the nanny goats will monitor the kids,” says Herold.

Herold has an eye for opportunity; he has his finger in many pies. He breeds 250 tuli cattle for the meat market and had up to 3,000 ostriches, until recently, because they do so well in times of drought and they’re versatile: you can farm them for their meat, feathers and eggs.

Imagine what his grandfather would say were he to find out that they currently have around 10,000 angora goats; by far the most for miles around. They’ll do anything but boast about it though, for they are humble people, even though, Herold has high ambitions: “I want to be the biggest mohair farmer in the world in the next few years.”

The flock numbers fluctuate depending on the season and the composition of the animals.

“You have to take a long-term view. Don’t stock your farm to the full potential as it’s an asset you have to look after, without over-grazing it,” says Herold.

The land can hold anything up to 14,000; on average he has between 8,000 to 10,000 goats, he says.

Herold takes a very reasoned approach to farming, in the drought of 2009-2010 he had to de-stock by 10% to guarantee food for the remaining animals for the following year. One hundred hectares of the land is used for irrigation.

That’s not to say that farming doesn’t come with its fair share of political challenges too.

“I’d say our biggest concerns in farming are political: what our place is going to be priority-wise for the government. The ‘green papers’ they are putting forth look to limit the amount of land that individuals can own. Limiting anything in business is not conducive to investment and good business, it forces people to start looking elsewhere,” he says.

According to Herold, government appointed land-valuers don’t necessary understand or have the knowledge of the area.

“Every business is a long-term investment, it makes one think twice before re-investing and expanding in [one’s] business… I might invest in this property and grow it and then in 10 years a government valuer might say ‘no, it’s not worth this, it’s worth that’,” he says.

The monthly running costs of his farm are R100,000 ($12,000) and returns vary.

“We were getting a better price for our mohair five years ago then we are now. The cost of production has gone up. The game [reserve] industry has pushed up the price of land beyond what the farming value has been, so it’s more difficult to buy and expand your business now than what it was 20 years ago,” he says. He doesn’t find it surprising that many farmers are turning elsewhere to ecotourism and ‘bed and breakfasts’.

Between his and his father’s farms they employ 20 permanent staff, the average staff member has been with them for 10 years. David serves on the mohair trust and is the chairmen of the black economic empowerment development trust within the angora industry.

“We have incentive schemes in place and training courses in fencing, mohair grading and tractor driving. That is the key to small-stock farming: having good, reliable people working for you. You can’t pay them minimum wage, day in day out, and expect them to go the extra mile for you. Sometimes we can’t close shop on a Friday and open up again and start again on a Monday,” Herold says.

They fear if fracking happens, they may have to close shop on a Friday and may not be able to open again on a Monday.

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Advances In Nigeria’s ‘Burglar Watch’ Industry




The escalating safety and security issues in Nigeria raised the alarm for this innovative entrepreneur.

Today, organizations not only face escalating risks but also the certitude that they will face a security breach at any time, if proper precautions are not taken. Such was the case for Paul Ajibulu when his office premises were ransacked by thugs in Adeola Odeku, Victoria Island, Lagos.

“We had just got our office fully furnished with MacBook computers and the whole works. When we came in the next day, we found the locks broken and all the office equipment had been looted. I lost about $20,000 in all that day and that set our business back for a couple of months,” says Ajibulu.

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To solve his problems, he reached out to Extreme Mutual Technique, an automated digital systems solution and renewable energy service provider.

The company says it boasts top-tier clients such as MTN, the Embassy of Sierra Leone, South African Breweries, and Africa Finance Corporation, amongst many others.

Akpobome Ojoboh, its founder and Managing Director, is adamant his systems are a must-have for every organization in Nigeria.

“We initially started the business called Extreme Surveillance Systems limited. Coming from my previous background, we decided to focus on CCTV and digital security. Considering the fact that Nigeria was being terrorized by security mishaps, we decided to [resolve] that,” says Ojoboh.

Safety and security have never been discussed in Nigeria as they are now. Threats are from everywhere, and at all places. Routine security checking at offices and shopping mall entrances has become the norm.

The idea of preventing crime is an appealing twist in today’s times and although it’s comforting for many to imagine a competent police officer monitoring every camera in Lagos, the question remains whether CCTV systems really do prevent crimes from happening or do they merely help in nabbing a criminal once a crime has occurred.

In a city like Lagos where you have constant disruptions to power, the long-term success of these systems presented significant hurdles for Ojoboh in the early days.

“There are so many limitations to digital security vis-à-vis the lack of a proper database that even when you have [identified] the culprits, you cannot find them. Furthermore, there were limitations to how people took ownership of their equipment because there was [often] no power. So, you put a system and people say ‘what if there is no power’?”

To combat these challenges, Ojoboh decided to provide another solution, by moving into the world of inverters.

“Then again, these inverters run down when there is no power to charge them so we went into renewable energy called solar to back up our inverters and digital solutions. That is when we changed the business to Extreme Mutual Technique Limited,” says Ojoboh.

Security is one of the largest businesses in the world, according to Ojoboh.

He has seen an increase in more families opting for peace of mind by having big brother watching over their loved ones whenever they cannot be with them.

“When I first became a mum, I would always worry incessantly about my daughter left alone at home with my nanny. Then, we started noticing strange marks on my daughter and I had heard about people mistreating children they cared for but I never thought it would happen to me. I reached out to a security company to install a camera in the house and lo and behold, I saw the nanny hitting my daughter. My whole world crumbled,” says Rebecca Gyan, a grocery store owner in Accra.

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“You have to be prepared because if you are not, then you almost cannot stop any security breach. It helps you to know some proactive measures to protect yourself. If you have a CCTV system and you notice there is a particular group of people visiting your building, you will be able to notice and react,” says Ojoboh.

As organizations become familiar with probable threats and vulnerabilities, they will be able to establish both preventive measures and responsive systems, to decrease the likelihood of intruders and attacks.

Since starting out in 2007, Ojoboh has grown the team to a 40-member business spread across Lagos and Abuja. The company has also moved into IT and engineering services in the areas of energy infrastructure, home automation, fire safety and digital security solutions.

With power still an issue in Nigeria, Ojoboh sees the future of his business in the area of renewable energy to power his systems to provide that all-important peace of mind to his clients. 

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Gordon Ramsay Plots 100 US Restaurants With New Private Equity Deal





On a given day at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, chef Gordon Ramsay’s eponymous pub and grill will make around $20,000 from fish and chips. The 1,200-square-foot space sees around 1,300 guests a day. Since debuting on the strip in 2012, Ramsay has added another location in Atlantic City.

Combined, both have sold more than 300,000 fish and chips dishes. “It’s taken the nation by storm. I look at the lines outside the door,” Ramsay told Forbes on the phone earlier this week.

His steak restaurant, which launched seven years ago at Caesars’ Paris Las Vegas Hotel, has meanwhile expanded to Atlantic City and Baltimore, luring diners with beef Wellingtons (more than 250,000 sold since 2012) and sticky toffee puddings (more than 200,000 sold).

That kind of demand needs to be taken advantage of quickly. Which is why a year ago, Ramsay started looking for a partner to help him rapidly expand these brands. “I wasn’t ready to pedal this bike up a hill on my own. That would take me another 15 years,” Ramsay says. “Let’s get this thing done.”

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And now Ramsay has inked a deal with Lion Capital, a private equity outfit with offices in London and Los Angeles, which has scaled restaurants like wagamama, the pan-Asian noodle chain, as well as brands like Kettle chips and Jimmy Cho. Lion now owns 50% of Gordon Ramsay North America, while the other 50% is controlled by Ramsay.

He declined to comment on the size of the transaction, but the deal stipulates that Lion will invest $100 million over five years to build an empire of Gordon Ramsay restaurants across America. The joint venture expects to open 100 new locations across the U.S by 2024. 

“I fell in love with this country 20 years ago. There’s a will here. My goal, right now, is to establish one of the most exciting food brands in America,” Ramsay says. “Being a control freak, I needed the right partner on board. There’s a lot of businesses that don’t like that kind of stranglehold. For me, the partnership was crucial.”

Ramsay already has eight restaurants across Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Baltimore in partnership with Caesars Entertainment. There’s five concepts in Las Vegas, of which three are brands that will be expanded through the new deal — Gordon Ramsay Steak, Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill, Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips.

“Vegas has been the most amazing platform. Everyone thinks it is just full of partying and entertainment, but it’s one of the most severe and revered culinary capitals anywhere in the world. You don’t get a second shot at it,” Ramsay says.

The restaurant concept, Gordon Ramsay Steak, launched in 2012 inside Caesar Entertainment's Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.
The restaurant concept, Gordon Ramsay Steak, launched in 2012 inside Caesar Entertainment’s Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.GORDON RAMSAY STEAK

The deal will also bring two more concepts to the U.S.: Gordon Ramsay Street Pizza and Gordon Ramsay Bread Street Kitchen, which he calls “a modern Cheesecake Factory.” It already has successful locations in London, Hong Kong, Dubai and Singapore. 

Ramsay is a six-time Celebrity 100 listmaker who earned $62 million last year, mainly from his television deal with Fox, in which he produces and stars in shows MasterChef, Hell’s Kitchen, MasterChef Jr. as well as 24 Hours to Hell and Back.

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“It may seem aggressive, but we’re not opening up 80 or 90 of the same restaurant. We’re crossing over with a multilayered brand. That’s the bit that I’ve worked hard at. We’ve divided and conquered.”

Ramsay’s 15 restaurants in London won’t be impacted by the Lion Capital investment. The announcement comes just a few weeks after British chef Jamie Oliver announced that all but three of his 25 restaurants in the U.K. will close.

“It’s a very oversaturated market there, and you need to be very careful with that level of expansion. It’s unfortunate to see the situation he got himself into, but that’s what happens when you’ve got a juggernaut that’s out of control, as opposed to being in control,” Ramsay says. “I’ve sat patiently, learning from other people’s mistakes.”=

-Chloe Sorvino; Forbes Staff

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Pain, Poison And Potential




For a man who wanted to end his life at one time, it is quite ironic that Steve Harris is today one of Nigeria’s most successful life and business strategists.

Being born into a lower middle class family is one thing; trying to make a name for yourself after dropping out of university twice is another. That is what Steve Harris, a life and business strategist and motivational speaker, fondly known as ‘Mr. Ruthless Execution’, has accomplished.

Harris learned the sinusoidal motions of the entrepreneurship journey very early in life.

At 40, he is the Chief Executive Officer of EdgeEcution, an organization that helps high performance individuals and institutions bridge the gap between their performance and potential.

Today, he is among one of the most downloaded, quoted and followed personal development trainers in Nigeria, a feat that is outstanding when you consider that he almost committed suicide before this journey even began.

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The events leading up to his worst day began to unfold when Harris gained admission into the University of Benin in Nigeria. His parents wanted him to become an engineer but his failure to attain the required grades meant he had to take the Industrial Maths class instead. That is when his emotional saga began.

“I had altercations with my lecturers and I was flunking because I was not cut out for math. I had issues with my lecturers because at the time, my department was the most corrupt department in the university and if you wanted to pass, you needed to bribe your lecturers. So they were pretty much a cartel and if you didn’t pay, you wouldn’t pass, so someone like me who at best was a C student became an F student.”

As a result, he scored 4% or 11% in his exams even when he had prepared well enough.

“I eventually got kicked out [of university] in 2004.”

Harris managed to get into a private university but this time, he was required to start all over again.

“I couldn’t go the distance and I dropped out in my seventh month. I couldn’t handle it because my mates were already working. My younger sister was also already working and I was going back to my first year of university. I started having suicidal thoughts and I couldn’t handle it anymore so I dropped out.”

Those suicidal thoughts would come back to haunt him later.

Being the first-born of three children, Harris was the one most likely to succeed. As fate would have it, his two failed attempts at university made him the black sheep of the family.

“I remember coming back home and my younger sister had graduated and my parents were super stoked, and here I am, the first child and I didn’t even get it together. Very quickly, she got a job and started earning money. She began buying things for the house and taking care of responsibilities and started giving me an allowance. I remember she gave me N10,000 ($28) and I was very grateful because I didn’t have any money,” says Harris.

“Like all African parents, my parents started complaining and reminding me about how I wasted their money and how I failed. How the children of others were working in [companies like] Shell and I was just at home.

“I would hide from friends and family members when they visited so I wouldn’t have to tell them my situation. The next month, my sister gave me N5,000 ($14) and I couldn’t ask her where the other N5,000 had gone. She was such a high-flyer that within six months, she moved into her own place and bought a car and here I am, first-born and I couldn’t even afford to buy a Christmas card,” avers Harris.

Then came the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“One day, my sister asked me to come over to her house for my monthly allowance. I went in and she had everything I wanted, she had a flat-screen TV, the whole nine yards, and I was just sitting there comparing my little sister with myself and I was thinking ‘there is no way I was ever going to catch up with her’. We were talking and in the middle of the conversation, I pissed her off and she said, ‘I am not even going to give you any more money’ and she kicked me out of her house.

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“I felt so embarrassed and ashamed and here I was, the one who everyone thought was most likely to succeed and I was being kicked out of my younger sister’s house because I didn’t have money. That messed with my mind. I remember sitting at home and I had bought rat poison. I kept thinking that it would be so much better to die than being alive and subjected to the misery I was giving my parents,” says Harris.

As he sat down with the box of poison, mentally preparing himself to end the pain and embarrassment he had brought to his family, one of his siblings walked into the house, in the nick of time.

“That is what stopped me. Then, I also found out that if you commit suicide, you will go to hell and here I am, living my own hell on earth and if I died, you are telling me I am going to be in hell forever?”

That was the wakeup call Harris so desperately needed.

He began to work his way up, starting off with volunteer jobs such as being a church driver for his pastor and also working as an office assistant with Fela Durotoye, a management consultant and recent presidential candidate of the Nigerian elections.

Harris grew through the ranks until he became a management consultant before starting off on his own entrepreneurial journey. Amid the challenges of finding his true purpose, certain thoughts came to his mind that changed his outlook towards life forever. He began asking himself: ‘why am I on this earth?’, ‘how can I make enough money to take care of myself and my family?’ and ‘how do I use my talent to help others?’

He found the answers in books on business written by authors such as Tom Peters and Michael Porter. That is when Harris first discovered he had a penchant for success.

And with his ability to overcome failure, Harris is now on a mission to empower millennials to look inward at their strengths and inner power, and with his able guidance, build brands that can beat the odds and survive, just as he did. 

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