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From The Soil To The Shelves




It’s not every day that a kitchen experiment turns into a community-empowering initiative. Leeko Makoene numbed her tongue and survived two ulcers to discover an authentic fiery taste named Chilladido.

With the brand’s co-owner Portia Mmabatho Morudi, she is bent on giving back to the communities they grew up in, with a ‘Made With Rural’ concept showcasing their authentic offerings.

While most of their peers have migrated to urban areas, the duo returned to invest in rural South Africa.

“It doesn’t make sense that rural communities who have rich arable land [at their disposal] still experience abject poverty and huge rates of unemployment,” says Makoene.

Chilladiddo is a food manufacturing company that produces chilli sauces, relishes, honey and other food products. The ingredients are sourced from Makapanstad village, processed in Lanseria, Johannesburg, and then sold at food shows, markets and a few Spars outlets in the city.

To make their business viable, the duo sought a partnership with the PEACE Foundation to set up structures to make  the projects sustainable. The foundation provided the necessary skills, resources and know-how in the communities.

The duo’s iLawu Honey project driven by the rural village of Winterveld is a showcase of innovation; the bee-hives are located in citrus farms managed by co-operatives in the area. The hives help with the pollination, and the honey produced is sold at food shows and markets.

This was Morudi’s brainchild, and for this, she was selected an emerging change-maker in South Africa by Spark International and invited by Virgin Unite and the Richard Branson group to speak at an event in London in 2014.

“Year after year, government ploughs money into projects and co-operatives operated in rural areas, only to see them fail and out of business a year later, simply because it is hard for them to crack the retail space, and secure sustainable markets,” offers Makoene.

As an entrepreneur, she found a solution to this issue. They partnered with like-minded small business owners, who are looking to raw materials and other things to keep activity in the rural supply market chain.

Makoene maintains that the youth misunderstand rural development.

“Agriculture is food. The whole chain of taking food from the soil, all the way to the shelf and the plate is what agriculture is about. There is a broad and exciting future in agriculture. African youth can create a legacy for themselves and their communities.”

In June 2015, the pair will host a mentorship walk in rural Makapanstad, where professionals, government officials and business owners will motivate and encourage the youth to pursue their dreams.

Plans are also underway to source funding to convert an inactive school facility in one of the villages into a processing plant for manufacturing Chilladiddo products.

Already awarded grant money from SAB Kickstart and The Hope Factory to help move the business forward, the Chilladiddo duo are set to launch a franchise food outlet and host a big festival to showcase all that Makapanstad has to offer.

“I am more fulfilled and rich doing the work that I do for rural development. I get pure joy on a tractor, than in a Porsche. Life has humbled me, and shown me what it is that matters the most, and from there, I have started receiving material riches,” says Makoene.

The chilli sauces and the fire in their bellies are enough to keep them going.


IN PICTURES | Truck Entrepreneur Drives Style Movement




Collaborations are key for the development of Africa’s sports economy

On a busy road in Soweto, in the southwest of Johannesburg, taxis go about their daily drill, stopping to pick up passengers outside the apartment-tenements of Chiawelo. Here, a truck of a different kind is stationed next to an old container and a car wash.

It’s owned by Siyabulela Ndzonga, a small entrepreneur dabbling in fashion, who has turned it into a concept store, on wheels.

Ndzonga,who brands himself Siya Fonds (S/F) – after a nickname his mother gave him as a baby, has been associated with the South African Fashion Week and with reputed designers such as Ole Ledimo, the founder of House of Olé, and stylist and fashion guru Felipe Mazibuko.

I didn’t even study fashion but it’s interesting how I’m actually making an impact and contributing a lot in the fashion industry, says Ndzonga. 

It was around 2011, when he sold second-hand clothes on the trendy streets of Braamfontein in Johannesburg, where only the cool kids would hang out.

“I was big on thrifting; selling second-hand clothes. I would thrift, resell,thrift, resell.”

His hard work earned him a stall at one of the flea markets in Johannesburg. At this point, Ndzonga was still employed at a retail store. After work and on weekends, he would be hustling on Johannesburg’s streets, all for the love of fashion and because people loved his work.

Ndzonga saw a business opportunity, quit his retail job and registered his brand in 2013. Later that year, Toe Porn socks contacted him and requested he consult for them.

“Brand consulting means that I come in and take their clothes and use them to translate the current fashion trends, translate them to how I think [people]should be dressing in terms of fashion. I actually became a designer because I set trends before they would trend. I would set the tone, narrative and navigate where fashion should go in the whole world, not just in South Africa,” he says.

His fame slowly grew and he started making clothes for others, traveling by taxi to CMT (cut, make and trim) factories in Germiston, 42kms from his hometown. 

“In 2015, that’s when I really saw that I am growing as a brand and that’s when I started consulting for international brands like Palladium Shoes, Fila and Ben Sherman.”

The business grew but he had to travel to others parts of country and that exercise was taxing.

He stopped making clothes and paused his business.

“The whole of 2016, I focused on consulting and saved money to set up a truck. I needed a store so people could come in and purchase Siya Fonds from the truck. This whole thing of delivering is not me, I can’t do it,” says Ndzonga.

“I initially wanted a container, but the truck was a better, fresher alternative. I’m not the first to do it, but I’m the first in Soweto. I set it up and people love it because it’s bringing popular culture to Soweto. I had to trust myself that’s it’s going to work and it did.”

The truck had been lying unused when Ndzonga purchased it, and he overhauled it with a lick of paint and an infusion of color and character.

I got another truck to pick it up and bring it to the current location in 2016.

In March 2017, the truck was launched as a concept store and he called it Block 88, as it encompasses other brands as well.

“Business was not so great after the launch. It only picked up after a few months of selling a few international brands that I consult for. We had seven brands in the store.”

He sells t-shirts, caps, jackets and jumpsuits. A two-piece suit sells for R1,400 ($97).

The next step for Ndzonga is to have stores in all the neighborhoods in Soweto and major South African cities.

Since the inception of his truck, he has also injected some vibrancy into the community.

He organizes art development programs and conversations around social issues on Fridays outside the truck, gathering youth and children.

“Conversation Fridays is like TED-talks. It’s bringing conversations to the township instead of having them in the city or suburbs and speak about what creatives are facing in the creative space and industry,” he says.

Now, he works as a consultant with a consumer agency and collaborates on a number of brands, also doing research for them. As the hustle and bustle quietens down at sunset in Soweto, Ndzonga’s trendy truck shuts shop. Tomorrow will be another day as a beacon of hope and vibrancy on a Soweto street.

Siyabulela Ndzonga of Siya Fonds. Picture: 
Motlabana Monnakgotla

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