Turning waste into wealth

by Mihle Mapoma
1 February 2023
1 February 2023
The mark of a true entrepreneur is the ability to see treasure where others see trash. Claudia Ntuli saw good vegetables going to waste and came up with a plan to turn them into something she could sell.

Ntuli is from Ntabamhlophe, KZN, and has been with SaveAct since 2019. She has a vegetable garden and sells to community members, but until a few years ago she had the problem of figuring out what to do with the surplus.  There were certain months where she couldn’t sell all her produce, and would then have to throw it out because it started to rot.

Ntuli decided to do something about this waste. “I learned how to turn food around, and decided that I will make vegetable atchar,” she said. She now has a thriving business selling juice, atchar (mild and spicy) and chutney.

Ntuli used a savings group loan to buy her packaging, and started selling this product to her community, charging R25 per jar. When she saw that this was going well, she added beetroot chutney to her product line.

The sales of atchar and chutney were so profitable she was able to buy a juicer after her expenses had been covered. With that juicer, she started experimenting with different vegetable concoctions, until she found a few that were tasty enough to market.

That was the birth of her range that includes juices made from carrot and ginger, and beetroot. She also has a milkshake range. Each bottle sells for R35, and when it comes to the orange and ginger juice, she can adjust the sugar level to the customer’s preference. She sells 5L buckets of atchar and chutney to local spaza shops, who in turn sell them in smaller bags, and advertise the products as garnishes for cooked food sold in the spaza shops.

Ntuli hires two seasonal employees, who help her with the peeling of the vegetables, especially at peak times. She also has two part-time salesmen, who work on a commission of R5 for each product they sell. They sell her products in the nearby town of Estcourt, while Ntuli focuses on selling in her community.

She has been to all the WAYSE training provided thus far, i.e. ABCD, Food Security and Agri-Enterprise Development. Ntuli is hoping that the business training learnt in the latter will help to make her business more profitable. Currently she sells at such a low price she only has a few Rands left over after business expenses have been paid. In addition, she pours every cent of profit back into the enterprise. She said that she has a leaky bucket, referring to a concept taught in ABCD training. “I plug where I can and put sellotape on the other holes until I can plug them permanently.”

Part of the reason her prices are low is because she would rather profit less if it means that her product gets out to a wider audience who can’t afford paying much more than her current prices, and she can provide others with employment.

Ntuli explained that she started this business because “We don’t have job opportunities. Us, the people on the low level, the people at the bottom, have to pass through many trials and tribulations in order to find ourselves on top. Here where I’m from, it’s the really rural areas, the seriously rural areas. No one is taking care of us.”

That said, Ntuli does want to buy a peeling machine, as she says they can get more done, quicker, which means less hours wasted in the production process. Her goals are to make her business more efficient, and do a business plan, as she learned at the Agri-Enterprise Development training done by Siyazisiza Trust, a WAYSE partner.

“We are so thankful to SaveAct for caring about us as women and teaching us to save money. And then for it (SaveAct) to come back and teach us about farming our gardens, by bringing Siyazisiza. My mind has been really opened, we thank you SaveAct, I don’t know how many more ways to say it.”, she said.

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