Local food entrepreneur branches out

mcfloraBy Liesl Jobson

On a sweltering January day back in 2010, Polokwane school teacher, David Mokwele, stared hungrily at the hard green mangos hanging overhead. The athletics team under his care was competing in the next town and food had been promised. However, the principal’s car broke down and it never arrived.

“I was hungry and had no money. My life was definitely going to change. I told my colleagues of my plan to make and sell archaar. I was determined to start with the help of my wife,” he said.

David’s idea took shape rapidly. The following month end he bought the ingredients and started cooking in his Flora Park kitchen. He chose the best fruit and carefully blended the spices. “They were so tasty and looked very pretty on the shelves, but the tubs of archaar had no name. The manager at the Spar advised me on labelling my product,” he said.

David began supplying more shops in the area, but bar-coding was needed. “Through the help of SEDA I got a bar-code, then I approached more retailers. We expanded our range to three different flavours of green mango pickle (mild, hot, and garlic) as well as a vegetable archaar in olive oil. Customers showed their appreciation and sales increased.

When his kitchen became too small, he moved the production into his yard, then into his garage. He complied with the regulations governing food production and word of this delicious pickle travelled. When McFlora Archaar entered the export market, David realised the opportunity to embrace self-employment had arrived. He resigned from teaching to grow his company further. McFlora Archaar is now available in Poland, India, and closer to home, in Zimbabwe’s Spar supermarket chain.

David was expanding rapidly, needing new machinery and a bigger space. He also needed help in the switch from school teacher to businessman. He enrolled for a course in Entrepreneurship at the North-West University’s Potchefstroom Business School. He also applied to the Tholoana Enterprise Development Programme, eager to acquire mentoring and additional business skills. His hard work and tenacity caught the eye of the selection panel and he was chosen to participate. After he had met several of the business development milestones he was approved for grant funding.

He had been spending R8 000 monthly on the labels for his tubs and jars, and was frequently frustrated by delays of up to three weeks when his product was immobilised. “You simply can’t sell unlabeled goods,” he said. With his business grant, he bought a printing machine to create and print his own labels.

With his own labels printed in an hour or two, he welcomed the approach by other food producers. “A whole new business has emerged,” he says, with delight. “Local entrepreneurs have approached us, wanting marketing materials, banners, their cars wrapped and needing sign boards.”

He recently signed a lucrative deal with Jumbo Foods enabling him to take on a new graphic designer and technical team to do the installations, as well as an administrator to assist with the practical running of the business.

David Mokwele is still looking up. He is still imagining new possibilities. If he can find bigger premises and warehousing in Gauteng, he aims to supply major food chains country wide. With his wife by his side – and their great team work – he remains hungry for success.

For more information about McFlora Archaar, contact David Mokwele on 073 285 3119 or [email protected]

The SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Programme offers high-potential small businesses access to business support, training and mentorship.