Born and bred in Pimville, Soweto, Mosibudi Makgato is a marketing executive by trade. She founded her company, called Yamama Gemmer, with her sister Rosemary Padi, and took over the full-time running of the company in 2016.
“The business was started by us from our mother’s recipe. We commercialised a homemade traditional ginger beer commonly known as gemmer, or gemere, depending on which part of Msanzi you are from.”
Through Yamama Gemmer, the sisters offer three ginger beer products; a concentrate, a beer cordial, and “ready-to-drink”.
Available in five- and two-litre bottles, the concentrates require dilution with water to make 20 litres and 8 litres respectively. The 500ml cordial also requires water, whereas the “ready-to-drink” can be consumed as is.
On their website, the sisters describe themselves as the “heart and soul” of the business, which is based in Midrand, Gauteng. The sisters currently employ four people, and Makgato says they have some manual components to their production process.
“We are currently still using manual elements with some automation. Ideally, we would like to be fully automated.”
Like with many small businesses in the country, Covid-19 had adverse effects on Yamama Gemmer. Makgato explains that their current production staff is actually reduced, and that they have not recovered enough to bring back their original team.
“Currently, [our] challenge is the market we lost in the last two years. This means sales have dropped. We are however, currently working on getting into markets that are a bit more traditional.”
Leaving a legacy
The theme of tradition is one that runs throughout the business. With Yamama Gemmer, the sisters hope to bring not just “the nostalgic original taste of traditional home-crafted ginger beer, but also a convenient element to traditional ceremonies”.
Having developed the recipe they inherited from their mother, Makgato explains that with their business, they also want to pass that inheritance along to their children.
“A rewarding aspect [of the business] is the legacy we are creating for our kids. We want our kids to go to school and have work immediately after.”
Makgato also explains that their legacy is not just limited to their children but is also one they hope to share with other women in their community.
“Our mother used to empower women in the community to grow food from their garden. We want to continue with that legacy to ensure that we employ the women who head their households, as we know that not only do they feed their families, but [also] the bigger community.”
Makgato’s tips for other agripreneurs are simple:
- Focus on your passion. Because it’s your passion, it will feel a lot easier.
- When you have a well-developed strategy, try not to worry about what others do.
- Always be open to learn. Trends change all the time, so be open to try new things.
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