Growing up on a plot gave Lilian Kokera her green fingers. “My parents raised chickens and pigs that they sold to the church and around the community,” she explains.
As a result, farming has always been a part of her life whether it was the chickens and vegetables she supplied to her colleagues while she still worked in the corporate sector, or through her agriculture business, Pelima Group, that supplies organic animals and produce to clients such as Pick n Pay.
She chose organic farming because she believes that her customers should also get the goodness that she feeds her family. “What makes me passionate about my business is that I am feeding my family, my neighbours and ultimately, the nation. As a mum of two, I am proud to be part of the few making the difference. People say farming is a dying profession, but I believe that in some small way we are keeping it alive.”
When Lilian started her agriculture business she relied on her family and friends to keep her afloat while she raised chickens on the farm owned by her partner. Determined to upscale, she applied to be a Pick n Pay supplier and she was contracted to supply the supermarket with chickens. However, she had a big problem – they wanted 5 000 chickens per week and she could only supply 2 000 as she didn’t have a big enough farm to raise more poultry.
Luckily, she was able to upscale after she and her life partner bought a bigger farm in 2015. Today, Pelima Group supplies organic livestock and seasonal produce to Pick n Par, Spar, and restaurants.
Lilian has big plans and she is in the process of buying a pack house and upscaling to include processing and manufacturing, which will allow Pelima Group to operate at an industrial level.
She says the milestone comes from the journey she went through by participating in the SAB Foundation Tholoana Programme. The Tholoana Programme offers intensive skills training workshops, face-to-face mentorship, and access to funds and markets. Entrepreneurs are upskilled in all aspects of running a successful business – from costing and pricing, marketing and PR, to financial management, and human resources.
Lilian explains, “Working as an entrepreneur can get lonely. Tholoana gave me peers and people to compare notes with. It gave me people to talk to, which affirmed that I’m not alone.”
Other than the R200 000 grant money she used to buy the equipment that increased her harvest by up to 40%, she also had a mentor who supported her and held her accountable to her quarterly targets.
“Tholoana helped me formalise my processes and made me feel like I’m running a legitimate business.” She adds, “The confidence you get working with Tholoana is phenomenal.”
For more information about Pelima Group, contact Lilian Kokera or call her on 073 162 5410.
For more information about the Tholoana Enterprise programme visit the website.