Flashbacks are sometimes funny, and it sounds ironic to Mazibuko. During her high school career, she majored in agriculture and hated it.
“The way I was divided into subjects forced me to study agricultural sciences. Needless to say I didn’t like it at all. It was difficult and I didn’t see how it would help me in the future. I only did it because I had no other choice. But guess where I retire?!“.
An entrepreneur through and through, Mazibuko’s love of business began in 2001. At the time, she was working in Human Resources in the banking sector and was sub-contracted to a courier company as a sideline.
“It was profitable. It was at this point that I realized that a salary would never be enough to augment me financially and build the wealth I desire for my family.”
Mazibuko’s entrepreneurial journey briefly transitioned to television after her 2002 home renovation caught the attention of a television producer. She says the producer asked her to film at her home and she agreed. Renting her home was a profitable time for her, and she explains that this was also the reason for her move into hospitality.
“On this television project there was a lady who took care of the crew. I was mesmerized by the equipment she used to serve her meals. It was all glamorous and shiny, and the setup was just beautiful and mesmerizing. This prompted me to ask her many questions. She explained the business to me in detail and offered to help me start my own.”
The following year, Mazibuko retired from banking and started her own catering business. She went back to school to learn food crafts but instead learned more about the business.
“I learned a lot about catering as a business; how to relate with the customer, how to find catering jobs, how to retain and build a loyal customer base, how to be the preferred supplier, the importance of customer time and integrity, multitasking and flexibility.”
Mazibuko worked in the hospitality industry for twelve years. In 2016, she brought a random invitation to a farmer’s meeting on agriculture.
Bitten by the farm virus
Izindaba Zokudla, or Conversations about Food, is a food systems project created by Dr. Naudé Malan, a senior lecturer at the University of Johannesburg. The project hosts a so-called “farmer’s lab” each month, reintroducing Mazibuko to farming.
“My neighbor Mirriam Peete told me about Farmers’ Lab. I was fascinated. I decided to go straight to the next session as it would be the last for the year.”
The Farmer’s Lab was Mazibuko’s first exposure to farmers from all walks of life, and it inspired a new kind of passion in her.
“It was beautiful and informative. I was excited, I was happy and it felt like home. I didn’t miss a single session. It felt good when I was there. I was fulfilled. Each session had an expert speaker who taught us about farming. There was an exchange of ideas and I exchanged ideas with knowledgeable people at all levels and attended agricultural conferences. It was just gratifying.”
Through the Farmer’s Lab meetings, Mazibuko met many farmers who helped her in her farming journey. She spent 2016-2019 learning more about farming and since starting her farming operation in 2019 she has grown it into a commercial success.
Building a poultry empire
As a poultry farmer, Mazibuko’s main product is broilers. Her farm is in Potchefstroom in the North West, where she also raises cattle.
With a farm of over 60,000 hens at full capacity, she has her sights set on further expansion. She is currently increasing the number of chicken coops on her farm and is aiming to export her product.
“I also plan to open a poultry production academy. I have noticed a gap between university and college student education. After graduation, they are not yet operational.”
Mazibuko recounts an incident where an agriculture student completed her in-service training on her farm and how a lack of training has cost her thousands of rand. The student operated a winch system used to feed the chickens.
“For lack of knowledge of how the system works, she turned the winds too hard. The entire line of feeders, 130 square meters, landed on the chicks. It was mayhem. They died.”
Mazibuko says the incident was one of many that motivated her to start her own academy. In her experience, a deeper focus on employability and ethics needs to be addressed.
“The interns are not taught a work ethic. This academy will work hand-in-hand with current educational institutions to prepare them to be better prepared and employable. There is also a great shortage of qualified managers at the commercial level. The Academy will address this issue.”
focus on learning
For Mazibuko, education is the key to success in the industry. While she plans to start an academy for graduate students, she’s not above studying on her own. This is why she was so excited to be accepted into the Corteva Women Agrpreneur program.
“A good entrepreneur is one who is always striving to grow, self-improve, and is really self-critical. A good entrepreneur looks outward to see how things are made compared to the way they work and is open to new things. The Corteva Women Agripreneur program is one such path.”
When she got into the program, Mazibuko says she had many academic goals for herself. So far she has got everyone.
“Anyone who has come through the GIBS corridors of Corteva can never be the same when they leave, in terms of how they work, how they think and how they conduct their businesses and themselves. This is what I came here for, and I achieve my goal in every interaction with the institution.”
A self-motivated and resilient individual, Mazibuko remains solution-oriented during difficult times. Her passion for farming guides how she runs her business and keeps her motivated despite challenges.
“I love farming. It’s a lifestyle for me, not just a job. I can’t imagine doing anything else. The fact that I own land is an achievement I don’t take for granted and one I will keep forever against all odds. It is gratifying that I was blessed during my lifetime to build a legacy for my children.”
Also read: This #SoilSista found healing in agriculture
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