Things have never come easily for Mosele Lepheane. Perhaps that is why she often chooses to do things differently, choosing to branch out from a career in marketing and event planning into pig farming.
Lepheane’s life and career is a tale of dogged determination and steady progress. It took her from a very difficult childhood to where she is director of her own Sandton-based marketing agency and CEO of a Free State piggery at the age of 36.
Until about the age of 11, Lepheane was raised by her grandparents. Later she moved to QwaQwa, where she stayed with her mother and father for the first time. After staying there for three years, her father passed away.
She lived a very unstable life with her unemployed mother, struggling financially. Her mother started a business, driving school children with her own car for a monthly fee.
After matriculating from Harrismith High School in 1999, Lepheane excitedly opted to study Business Management and Events and Marketing. But during her first year, when her mother could no longer afford her college fees, she was forced to drop out.
Refusing to go back to QwaQwa uneducated, Lepheane stayed on in Bloemfontein and got herself a job as a waitress. “I was never happy with working at restaurants because I knew I was destined to do greater things.”
After years of gaining experience in the hospitality industry, she joined a chamber of business in Sandton. Her work ethic and attention to detail was noticed. This gave her the opportunity to manage an event, despite having little experience and no qualifications.
Driven by passion and a desire to be independent, Lepheane continued exploring. She started working on bigger projects. She gradually fostered a deep love for marketing and events planning. But, in spite of all the glamour and the excitement the career offered her, she craved more. She wanted to add more meaning to her life.
So, out of frustration, in 2014 Lepheane joined a short-lived women’s consortium that sought to infiltrate different industries and create jobs in specific areas. She piloted the agriculture division of the consortium.
“I did research on industries that promised a quick turnaround and learned that pig farming is quite profitable compared to other livestock. I was both excited and afraid at the same time. Pigs are dirty animals and being a complete girly-girl, I wondered how I’d pull it off,” she says.
After getting married in 2015, Lepheane moved to Viljoenskroon in the Free State to join her husband Takatso, who she had dated since high school. He was looking after his family’s livestock.
“I introduced the idea of farming pigs to him, and he immediately liked it. He attended an agriculture expo and returned equally as excited as I was,” Lepheane says.
Initially, the couple had very little farming experience. However, they have grown tremendously since 2015, when they started their own operation, MOS M Farm, with Lepheane as CEO. Today they collectively run a successful piggery with 100 pigs, supplying different abattoirs and meat distributors in the province.
“We breed our own pigs on municipal land from farrow to finish and can therefore guarantee good quality.”
Lepheane also runs a successful marketing and events company, called M Squared Marketing, which is based in Sandton. It currently serves as their main source of income.
“My husband and I figured that while we are perfecting our skills in pig farming, we should have something that puts food on the table. So, at 32 years old I went back to school and graduated with a degree in marketing in 2017.”
Lepheane admits that they have experienced many challenges. However, now that they understand the industry and the market better, things have picked up. Not knowing enough about pig breeding cost them a lot of money, and a few pigs too.
Proper infrastructure was another headache, Lepheane says. They didn’t know how to keep the pigs cool in summer or warm in winter. “We weren’t aware the pigs were so sensitive, and we had to dig into our own pockets to improve the infrastructure.”
She urges start-up pig farmers to learn from the mistakes that other pig farmers have made.
“Prepare yourself mentally, go for training, do thorough research, choose a breed that is suitable to your area, and don’t be in a rush to make money.”
Lepheane says that many challenges remain, including access to land, as the space that they currently operate from is stifling their growth. They are also struggling with abattoirs in their area not providing abattoir compliance certificates. These certificates are required for pig producers to get contracts. Their farm has also fallen prey to thieves, but she is adamant not to let this affect them.
“We are currently consulting with South African Pork Producers Association (SAPPO) and they are busy assisting us with changing our breeding type. They are also keeping us up to date with new trends in the market.”
Lepheane considers herself lucky. She says their journey has been blessed and she hopes to have their own land by the end of this year. She wants to be able to produce 1000 pigs per month by 2022.
“We are also in the processes of finalising a contract with a meat distributor in Gauteng, and hope to increase our footprint.”