Working your way up…again and again!

by Mihle Mapoma
29 November 2023
29 November 2023

Milan Vezi joined SaveAct in 2019. First interviewed in 2020 as part of the introduction of the WAYSE project, she has come a very long way in the success of her business. Let’s start from the beginning!

As Ms Vezi was unemployed, she thought the best way for her to alleviate the financial stress was to start a small tuckshop, selling something she could either easily make or buy in bulk. After looking around her community to see what gap she could fill, she started selling amagwinya (fat cakes) from the door of her house. She put up a zinc awning that people could stand under, so as to be shielded from the weather.

Ms Vezi started the tuckshop a short while before joining a savings group. She took loans from her group to buy stock for the tuckshop, then paid the loans back using the profits. Whatever other profit she made, she saved in the bank. She stocks a month and a half in advance. Ms Vezi saved enough to buy a container from inside which she could operate her business; which she put just outside her yard and closer to the road. This also worked better for her business because it meant passing cars could access her tuckshop better. However, “I wanted to move because of the lack of safety in the container,” she said.

She continued to use loans and put money in the bank, saving enough to build a small brick holding for her tuckshop, that will be the business’s forever home. Using a share-out, the tuckshop’s profit and her mom’s pension, they built a house attached to the tuckshop. Her mom also used to be part of savings groups, but the up and down to meetings wasn’t good for her ailing body. Her mom now helps out at the shop, and they run it together. As much as there is competition near her, Ms Vezi has loyal customers. Rather than selling the container, she saw it as a chance to help other female business owners get their start. She currently rents the container out to a young woman from the community, who uses it as a hair salon.

One of her future goals is to rent out the house she currently lives in, where she started her business, when she and her family move to the new house they’ve built. At the time of the interview, this house, a large and expansive family home, with all new fencing and gate; built on a new plot of land across from the old house, was in the ‘finishing touches’ stage. (The  family has since moved in to christen the home with its first Christmas). Ms Vezi’s mother was proudest of this part of her daughter’s growth, encouraging us to explore the new build to “see everything my daughter has achieved”.

Ms Vezi shares that “ABCD training helped me the most! Particularly learning how and when to use money (in) the best way.” She wants to implement recordkeeping that she learned at  Enterprise Development (ED) training, but she struggles with it a bit. “I’ve been trying to do it over and over, since then, but I just can’t get it. So, I will be meeting with Julia again so she can re-explain it to me and help me do it,” she said, speaking about her field officer, Julia Mkhize, who luckily not only did the training in the first place, but also lives in the same community.

Ms Vezi is always looking for opportunities and gaps within her community, which is how she realised that the land at the back of their property could be used for growing crops to sell. The task was a hard one to tackle, because the land is mostly sloped and was overgrown, which meant she had to first clear everything, including uprooting trees and plants, and only then could she use it. She has about one hectare of sloped land that she uses. The rest is marshland or is currently overgrown. Ms Vezi started farming two years ago, and sells the produce in the tuckshop. This includes cabbage, lettuce, onions and bananas. She has also created a water way system for her crops, and is planning to extend the garden outwards to the border of the land – but that will mean she has to first do more clearin.

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