At only 22 years old, Modikwe Musi started his atchar business to inspire hope. He runs Musi Foods with his mother and ships his products to nearly every corner of the country.
Musi started his atchar business in 2020 in Pretoria during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns. While the idea for the product came from his mother, starting the business was actually inspired by a challenge he received on Instagram.
” As lockdown hit us hard and we went into level five, I used to do a few (Instagram) live sessions with an entrepreneur that I also met on Instagram. We tried to spread business advice across South Africa to just encourage and motivate people [and let them] know that things will get better, and even though we’re in a chaotic situation, there is opportunity.”
The live sessions coalesced into #TheLiveFoundation, a social media movement where people donated money for various good causes during the live streams.
“From our live sessions, we ended up raising a million rand within a month. From there, we started giving back to the community, from food parcels to building houses, et cetera.”
Musi explains that it was during one of these sessions when he was challenged to start Musi Foods from scratch, without any resources or support, to show people that it is actually possible.
“I went into the house and I saw my mom making atchar, just as something to pass time with. It hit me that with my eCommerce knowledge, and everything I’ve learned with building online businesses, this is a product that I can actually make and sell to the public. I don’t need a shop or an office. I can make the product at home and then I can get courier vehicles to come pick it up and deliver it. So, we started the business.”
Musi, with his mother Sibeka as head of operations, manages the social media and online part of the business.
“Using various social media platforms, we managed to scale and grow [Musi Foods] into a six-figure business within the first few months of running.”
To Musi, the quality of their product is of prime importance. He explains that generic atchar does not always have the best quality mangos, and often has overpowering flavours. This is what makes their product different.
“In our manufacturing process, we partnered with local farmers and we established a relationship whereby they will give us the mangoes just as the season hits. And from there, we’ve got our own seasoning and our own manufacturing processes that give us the product that we sell. Everything was done from our household, all of the packaging, the product creation, the recipes, it was all done in my mom’s kitchen.”
Growing a small business into a six-figure operation within a few months is not an easy feat, and of course, comes with challenges.
“It is fun and great doing six figures and seeing how well we can reach the whole country with our atchar, but we honestly do need a bigger team as it stands, and better manufacturing facilities and production facilities. [Right now], it’s just [my mother] and her small team cutting the mangoes themselves, spicing them and packaging themselves, and making sure everyone gets their order within three working days.”
He explains that they try and deliver as quickly as possible, but they simply need more resources.
Musi has the following tips for aspiring agripreneurs:
Start small but never think small
The first tip I have, I got from Vusi Thembekwayo and it says, “don’t be scared to start small but never think small”. I think a lot of the time we see what we have, and we think to ourselves ‘this won’t be enough”, or “I need funding” or “I need this and that”. We create so many mental barriers to starting whereas if we just started with what we have, we could still expand at a later stage. I think the biggest roadblock for many entrepreneurs who want to get into business is just getting over that starting block. But always, when you start, you must always think big and never limit yourself.
You will fail
You will reach points where you don’t reach your targets, or your customers are unhappy. The business will have problems, but if you carry on pushing through and if you carry on motivating yourself, it will all be worth it in the end. So don’t give up in the beginning because of the challenges you face.
Your product is not as good as you think it is
There will always be someone better than you, but if you have a consistent desire to improve and better yourself, you will also make it. You must always remember that your customer doesn’t know your best product. You know your best product. So, give a product that is good enough while always investing your time and energy in improving that product and you’ll blow your customer’s expectations away.
Believe in yourself more than anything
A lot of people will not believe in you. Some, because they purely don’t like your ideas, but others, usually family and friends, because they are fearful of the journey you are about to pursue. However, when you are faced with negativity and rejection, you should always remember that if you believe in yourself and you believe you can do it then that belief will be more than enough to carry you through the journey.
People first, profits second
One of the best things I’ve learned is if you put your customers first and always give, give, give, they will want to support you no matter what.
Sign up for Mzansi Today: Your daily take on the news and happenings from the agriculture value chain.