Nkashi Mphahlele (28) has always known that he is an entrepreneur at heart. However, he wanted to impress his parents and studied for a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Chemical Technology.
“I went to an agricultural high school, which sparked my passion for agriculture,” he says, “My family had cattle and I wanted to turn it into a business. In fact, one of my dreams was to sell beef to Namibia but that’s like selling sand to people who live in the desert.”
Some are able to find success after taking a direction that their heart is not set on. Others, like Nkashi, struggle. He was unemployed for two years before finding a job as an environmental consultant. “I was fired from that job after two years,” he quips, before adding that his passion pulled him to where he always wanted to be. It started one day when he skipped work to attend an agri-processing workshop. He learned that canned pilchards are one of the two top-selling products in the country. And, after a trip to Israel where he discovered that it’s possible to farm fish, he was inspired to take the leap.
“The fish was farmed in the desert. It made me realise that the idea was viable and that I could farm it in Limpopo.” Makwaria Trading opened for business in 2016. They distribute farmed freshwater fish in Gauteng, Limpopo, and KwaZulu-Natal. “I have been pushing ever since. I’ve had ups and downs like all new ventures. The industry has regulations, but the government can be slow. There is also a lot of learning and constant research, like how people eat fish and how the market itself works.”
“I thought I understood business until I was selected to take part the SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise programme. I now realise that even though I had a passion for farming, I lacked business skills that create growth and sustainability. I now have skills like human resources and financial management. The programme made me business-ready. If I decided to sell soup the business would succeed because I know what it takes to run a business,” he says, “It’s the kind of experience that you wouldn’t even get from an MBA.”
Ntando Maseko, Nkashi’s Tholoana mentor, says that he’s a very energetic entrepreneur and is highly knowledgeable about his industry and passionate about what he does. “He had been growing his business steadily at an average of 15% month to month but realised he was not optimising on his biggest asset: his knowledge and skill. A small strategic shift to add consulting services to his portfolio has led to exponential growth rates and it’s quite an amazing experience to be part of his journey.”
His next goal is to turn Makwaria Trading into a group of companies. “I’d like to go into processing and retail. I transport fish, and it’s an opportunity to get into logistics. I have business development experience, I know branding and other skills that running my business equipped me with. I want all aspects of production to be done in-house and offer these services to others.”
Nkashi wants to transform aquaculture and fish farming to get more young black people into aquaculture and to increase the market share for small-scale farmers. He is clearly a man on a mission. And, with a tremendous 75% increase in jobs created since he started on the Tholoana programme, he’s uplifting his community while living his dream.
For more information about Makwaria Trading, contact Nkashi Mphahlele call him on 081 244 9071.
For more information about the Tholoana Enterprise programme visit the SAB Foundation website.