The day Wadea Jappie (49) decided to follow in her daddy’s footsteps should go down in history as the best decision of her life.
Her father owned a string of businesses, including a construction company, fishery and a bakery. Jappie inherited the deeply-rooted entrepreneurial genes that make her an award-winning farmer and entrepreneur in her own right.
Born in Strand in the Cape Town Metropole, Jappie was raised in an environment conducive to budding entrepreneurs. She remembers her entrepreneur father as a man who took on everything and anything.
“A shrewd businessman,” she calls him, “who relentlessly went after every opportunity presented to him. My father could sell ice to Eskimos.”
GROOMED FOR BUSINESS
After Matriculating from Islamia Girls High School in Lansdowne in 1987, Jappie’s plan was to study law. However, when her father opened a bakery, she was roped in to manage the business.
“While all the other kids were having fun, me and my siblings were busy running a business.” Reminiscing about her father, Jappie sighs with relief that she never got to study law.
“Everything I am today is as a result of what my father taught me and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Jappie married Achmat Brinkhuis in 1990. They moved to Ottery to raise their sons in a bright yellow home. She kept her surname.
“After moving into our new home, my husband and I realised that the area was infested with gangsterism and we were not prepared to raise our boys there.” The family then moved to Phillipi, where they now live on a 20 hectare piece of land.
It was the perfect place to raise their children, but she felt that the rest of the land was going to waste. “I spoke to my husband and we decided to dedicate a portion of the land to farming.”
“I loved baking and my kids were always hungry, so I asked my husband to get us a few chickens and vegetable seeds to plant.”
But what the couple did not realise was that a chicken lays one egg every day, and their shed was soon filled with eggs they had no use for.
“We ended up selling them to friends and family that showed interest. Before we knew it, word had spread and people from our entire community knocked on our door to buy fresh eggs.”
Selling their produce to friends and family was the start of a lucrative business and in 2005 the family registered Chamomile Farming Enterprises. “We started with 100 chickens and currently have 10 000 chickens in our shed. My husband has experience in construction, so he could easily build the shed.”
Jappie says they were eager to grow their business and approached restaurants that they could supply to. “We’ve achieved so much and, with each passing year, our business has grown favourably, but with the success there’s been challenging times too. Especially in the beginning,” she says.
When Jappie and her husband started farming they didn’t have any knowledge of the regulations regarding the grading, packing and marking of eggs destined for sale in South Africa. “Standards for sizes, grades and looking for defects in eggs was a real challenge with our limited knowledge.”
Chamomile Farming Enterprises’ biggest client is Shoprite and Checkers, who they’ve been supplying dhanya and other vegetables for almost a decade now.
They started out with 20 to 30 bunches of dhanya, two or three times a week, but have since then been able to produce 800 to 900 bunches per day. “We also produce eggs for Nulaid, who then does the grading and packaging,” she adds.
They have come a long way since starting in 2005 and have expanded their produce range with carrots, cabbage, coriander, cauliflower and radish. In 2006 Jappie was awarded the top female producer award for informal markets by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ Female Entrepreneur Awards Programme.
Jappie says that it’s extremely rewarding to see her hard work displayed in a Checkers or Shoprite store. “It’s even more rewarding to see people enjoy products that my family has produced,” she says.
Since she started farming, Jappie has enjoyed the continued support of her children. “My children grew up a naughty bunch, but I’m thankful that they’ve been so involved in the farming business. They will be the second generation of farmers, so their involvement is crucial.”
Jappie says raising her children on the farm had its benefits.
“Running a business and raising the kids was not all that difficult. My boys had the space to release their energies and farming is like working from home.”
This allowed her the freedom to give her kids all the attention they needed, she adds. “Once they had settled, I could return back to work.”
Jappie’s son Nabeel Brinkhuis is the Chamomile Farms operations manager. He knows the farm like the back of his hand, she says. “Tawfeeq, on the other hand, is in charge of our poultry division and scooped the Durbanville Regional Prestige Agri Worker Award.”
(Read our interview with Tawfeeq: “How Tawfeeq Brinkhuis cracked the egg market.”)
“My children are so respectful and are appreciative of everything we’ve done for them.”
Her daughter, Mariam Brinkhuis, says she loves that her mother is such a hard worker. “My mother has a heart of gold and that is her greatest asset,” she adds.
Built from nothing, the farm has come a long way. What comforts Jappie is knowing that she and her husband will one day leave a legacy behind for their children.
“Soon the time will come for them to take over and I will gladly step back and let them take us into the future of farming.”