“Being educated is great, but your success is entirely in your own hands,” says Lungelo Ndebele, a fully qualified attorney who started her own poultry business after failing to secure a job.
The 26-year-old agripreneur from Harrismith in the Free State had her sights set on becoming a corporate attorney after graduating from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2017. But unfortunately, her dream never came true.
“When that opportunity never presented itself, I created it,” she shares.
In 2020, during the Covid-19 lockdown, Ndebele decided to create a poultry business called Eggsclusive Eggs. She supplies eggs to local spaza shops and people in her hometown.
“When we were in level five (of lockdown) and people were panic buying and leaving the shop shelves empty, I realised that this was an opportunity to be part of the solution in rebuilding our country and economy,” she says.
“People may need an attorney at one point in their lives, but when it comes to farmers, we need them every day. We cannot survive without food. So, I registered my business of which I am the sole owner and bought my first batch of layer chickens in September 2020.”
Attorney turned farmer
She kept the batch of chickens in her backyard. Luckily, her neighbour was kind enough to understand that it was a temporary situation. Later that year, she purchased a hectare of rural land to start her operation.
Ndebele tells Food For Mzansi her biggest challenge was acquiring financial resources to kickstart her business.
“Stop being dependent on handouts from the government. start small and start with what you have.”
“Money plays a big role when starting a business. without it I could not buy a piece of land, a chicken house, chickens, feed or packaging. So, I had to acquire money from the bank to purchase all that I needed,” she says.
Her second biggest challenge was market access.
“In law school, we do not learn much about business, so I had to use my charisma and people skills to inform people in our community about our beautiful eggs.”
More than six months later, she now specialises in layer chickens and only sells eggs.
“I chose to only sell eggs because many people lost their jobs during lockdown and so many may not be able afford a to buy a full chicken,” she explains.
A YouTube crash course
Ndebele learned her poultry farming skills from the internet and YouTube.
Even though she doesn’t yet have any employees, she hopes her business will grow big enough so she can employ the youth and women in her community.
“It really pains me when people visit our farm every day asking for jobs and we have none to offer. Our driving force as nation feeders is to feed people and create employment for youth and women.”
Ndebele says she initially dreamt of opening a law firm, but she realised that she would not be able to create as many employment opportunities if she did.
Why not open a law firm?
“If I opened a law firm, I could only create employment for myself and perhaps a secretary because I do not yet have permission to train other attorneys from the law society,” she says.
“This poultry farm, once it has expanded, will create sustainable employment because we will need people to take care of the chicken houses and collect eggs.
“We will need those who will grade the eggs, others will pack the eggs, we will need drivers as well. I see this farm as an opportunity to sustain families in my small town.”
Over the past few months, she has been fortunate to create a loyal customer base. She hopes to keep it going, because she wants to leave an inheritance for her 20-month-old daughter, Imani.
Ndebele shares that the toughest lesson she has learned thus far is not to limit herself to only what she knows. “As young people we spend most of our time on our phones and we should use them to acquire new skills,” she says.
Her future goal? To get investments into her farm so that she can expand and create sustainable employment for the people in her community. She also wants to become a commercial farmer supplying eggs to supermarkets and neighbouring countries.
Lungelo’s advice on farming (and life)
- Stop being dependent on handouts from the government.
- Start small and start with what you have. “If you can buy a packet of spinach seeds, in a few months you will harvest more than the R350 government is offering us,” she says.
- Use the information at your disposal, like YouTube and Google.
- Keep things simple. Don’t complicate your life with expensive equipment and so forth.
- Don’t be limited by what you studied at university.
- Be patient.
- Have integrity, and never provide people with food that is not safe to consume.