“I did this because I think agriculture can sustain our economy and beyond. I want to have my own farm where I can plant lekatane (melon) so I don’t buy from anyone”, says Dorcus Othusitse, an agro-processing business lady as she welcome Sunday Standard at her place of operation in Lobatse.
The 47 year old business lady has been a proud jam and vegetable pickles (archer) manufacturer since 2016 despite many challenges she continues to face on her entrepreneurial journey.
She lists the cost of raw products used in manufacturing some of her products as a hindrance to growth of her company dubbed ‘As I Am Investments’.
‘As I Am Investments’ manufacturers jam in various flavors including melon, tomato, mango, pineapple and morula. The melon or Lekatane as it is called in vernacular and the tomato are a popular favorite amongst the company’s clients.
Dorcus explains that she fell in love with Lekatane because she felt it was not fully utilized and mainly being used for feeding small livestock.
While the Lekatane flavor has proven to be a hit amongst the clients, the main challenge for Dorcus and her company is the cost of procuring it from local farmers. The farmers have become expensive, making it difficult for her to procure Lekatane in large quantities.
The procurement of raw material is not the only challenge this sole-preneur is currently facing. She aspires to expand her clientele with eyes set on wholesalers and retailers. The hindrance is lack of funds to package her produce and assigning them a barcode.
Like many traders, Dorcus is currently going through a difficult time as she can barely sustain her business. She goes around town with a bag full of jam jars to sell in order to make ends meet.
“If my bottles had stickers and barcodes I believe I could sell to shops because sometimes when you don’t have such people think you are not serious. The only difficulty is that I do not have the money to do so right now”.
She adds, “Customers become a bit skeptical to buy sometimes. They also find it difficult to believe it’s my product at times because of the non-existence of the labeling on the packaging.”
Because of lack of proper packaging Dorcus continuously finds herself having to assure her customers that her produce are fresh and would not expire within a foreseeable future.
Before venturing into her current business, Dorcus was working for Clover Botswana operating a packaging machine for milk. She then worked at Seventh Day Adventist in Mogoditshane for about a year. While the two jobs gave her exposure and experience of agro-processing business, it was her love for Farming and Agriculture that got her enrolled at the National Food Technology Research Centre (NFTRC) for a course to learn how to make jam and archer.
Immediately after graduating from NFTRC, Dorcus joined the Poverty Eradication Program where she was given P15 000 as a start-up for her business.
“I have tried the Letlhabile program by Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) which I was told I don’t qualify for because its mainly reserved for tuck-shops and people that sell airtime.” She says.
After hitting a snag at CEDA, Dorcus then approached another state owned economic development agency – the Local Enterprise Authority (LEA). In the meantime while she awaits LEA officials to come and assess her business, Dorcus is taking advantage of an initiative in Lobatse dubbed ‘Street & Market’ which has been established by locals to promote local businesses. She holds Street & Market in high regards because that is where ‘As I am Investments’ is able to make satisfactory sales and grow its base of clientele.
She is also grateful to the Lobatse Town Council as they have given her a place to operate from free of charge. As the interview draws towards the end, Dorcus expressed confidence in her venture and pleaded with locals to reach on +26775328843 to place orders of Jam.