It is usually said that success comes at a great price. Right? To find his sweet success, Gontse Selaocoe (22) sacrificed R1000 he had saved for a pair of Pantsula shoes.
Instead he used it to start a jam manufacturing business in Orange Farm in the south of Johannesburg.
Initially the Gauteng agripreneur had hopes to buy a pair of Converse to dance and complete his “Pantsula trifecta,” along with his Dickies and bucket hat.
But after he completed his matric in 2019, Selaocoe had a change of heart when he reached his goal. Instead, he decided to invest his hard-earned savings into his agro-processing business All Day Jam.
To meet his goal, he would walk back from his school in Lenasia to Orange Farm and save the travel money. This was a walk in the park if it meant he could finally buy his Converse All Stars.
With a little help from his grandmother Mabel Selaocoe’s recipe archives, and the R1000 he had saved, the Gauteng agripreneur began manufacturing and bottling jam in gran’s kitchen.
“I always asked her why she didn’t sell her jam in her spaza shop, and she asked me why I didn’t do it myself?”
Starting a business with only R1000 was no easy feat. “I bought plastic bottles and printed stickers with my logo on them. They faded very quickly, and my bottles were not in a very good condition.”
‘Agriculture was not my thing, I only worked in the garden with my grandfather because it was one of the house chores I had to do.’
These challenges were merely a stepping stone and a lesson learned. He quickly traded plastic for glass bottles and now produces 500g bottles of yellow melon, tomato and pear jam.
Grandparents sparked agro-processing vision
Selaocoe never imagined he would make a living from selling his grandmother’s jam. Instead, the young business owner had dreams of becoming the next international Pantsula sensation.
“I wanted to dance on the global stage. Pantsula stars like Tebza Diphetlo has seen the world through his dancing. I saw myself going abroad.”
The call to agri was louder than the vibey tunes of Trompies and Alaska. From an early age Selaocoe recalls spending hours alongside his grandfather, Daniel, planting, tending and harvesting fresh produce from the garden.
This is the very garden where he now sources fresh produce to make his jam.
“It was an open space used as a dumping site. People came here, and they also started planting their own gardens.”
His grandfather was fundamental in restoring the former dumping site and turning it into a community garden. Running the garden in an open space however proved to be challenging.
“People come here and they steal. Worse, when we have melons, some kids come to the garden and steal our melons thinking they are watermelon,” he says.
Becoming a farming Pantsula
Pantsula quickly became a way of life for Selaocoe while attending the MH Joosub Secondary School in Lenasia. “I grew up ke lepantsula. I used to dance pantsula, I do still dance but not like before, because 24/7 I am running my business.”
He admits, “Agriculture was not my thing, I only worked in the garden with my grandfather because it was one of the house chores I had to do.”
‘Start with whatever you have, don’t say you will wait until you have enough, you will wait until kingdom come.’
When he looked to agro-processing his perceptions changed. “I began seeing it as an opportunity to thrive. My Pantsula is an identity I use to promote my business.”
While his mother Pula Selaocoe is his biggest cheerleader in life and business, he recalls she had a hard time supporting his dancing dreams. “My mother never liked this thing of me wanting to become a Pantsula,” he says.
He had no choice but to save. “Saving has always been my thing, so it was easy for me to make some sacrifices for that R1000.”
He started his business six months after matric. “I was unemployed but this hunger for starting a business stayed in my head, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.”
Selaocoe is now on a mission to prove that Orange Farm is not a township where gangsters are born and dreams come to die.
“Alexandra was once a violent kasi, now it is being developed. I want to see that happen in my community. The jam has inspired a lot of people; it would make me happy to have my community seen as a place where good things can come from,” he says.
It takes time, patience, and passion to start a business, he says. You cannot expect to think of starting a business one day and want it to manifest the next. You need to do market research, the young gun advises.
“Find out what gaps are missing in your community and fill them.”
He advises young entrepreneurs to put the talk into action. “Even with the very little capital that you have, you can start whatever business you want to start.
“I started my business with R1000 that I saved to buy a pair of shoes. R1000 is just a little money.
“Start with whatever you have; don’t say you will wait until you have enough, you will wait until kingdom come. With the profits you make you can keep on saving and invest in your business. It will all work out for the better.”