Local Soup Company makes strong waves in market

STAFF REPORTER

‘Makhoboso Shale teamed up with two men in Ha Abia on the outskirts of Maseru to start up their own company. The name of the company is Eternity Foods.This company produces soup using both local and imported ingredients.

Shale, who is the managing director of the company, says she developed an idea to have this company after realizing that Lesotho has become a ‘dumping’ market for other countries. Lesotho imports almost every food item from South Africa.

The new study by Metro also shows that almost every country which is a South African neighbour imports every food item from her (South Africa).

Shale says Lesotho has become a market for other countries and is unable to produce for herself.

And in 2008, they took a positive step to walk the talk by registering their company.

Shale says they have endured a great emotional suffering by seeing their country being unable to produce for itself but just accepting what other countries have produced.

The Minister of Small Businesses Chalane Phori once said Lesotho is unable to produce even a mere ‘tooth pick’.

Shale says she was lucky to be in Botswana where she met with a friend who is good and knowledgeable with manufacturing of soups.

Then she did not waste her time.

The opportunity was too good to be wasted, she says.

Through their small savings, Shale says they wanted to have their own company that would be run by the locals.

She says they were also worried to see that the foreign companies are unable to help the locals through giving back to the community in times of need.

Eternity Foods would answer all these challenges, Shale admits.

Eternity Foods is located in Ha Abia on the outskirts of Maseru but it will soon be in Maseru city where it could easily be accessible.

In 2011, Shale says their product was tested by a task force of Ministries of Agriculture and Food Security, Health and Trade as well as dieticians.

The results were just amusing, she says.

But she wormed her way back to South Africa to hone her skills for manufacturing of soup.

Shale says they are having more customers who are finding it difficult to locate their place of work and they are planning to move in the centre of city to get a cavernous space.

“We have an influx of customers who are coming to the company to buy and sell our product,” she says.

She says they have made inroads to local supermarkets where they are putting their products on the shelves.

“We have a couple of supermarkets that sell our product on their shelves,” she says.

Now, a handful of supermarkets in Maseru, Mafeteng and Teyateyaneng have their product on their shelves.

Shale says they are planning to push the boundaries in other districts to sell their product.

She confidently says the future looks bright.

She says their soup has a plethora of vitamins and nutrients needed by the body as attested by the relevant bodies from Food and Nutrition Coordinating Office (FNCO).

So we do not have any doubt that it would experience any barriers in the market, Shale says.

She is quick to mention that the Ministry of Trade and Industry also played a significant role to help them for labelling their product.

From there, they pushed on their own to drive their business further.

Shale says they ploughed back their profits into the business to grow it bigger.

“We went for a couple of months without paying us from the company,” she says.

She says they also sell their product to some high schools in the country and their market is good.

At the moment, they are also trying to penetrate the South African market.

Shale says they are prepared to face a stiff competition against the established businesses abroad.

The company now has 22 people employed permanently.

Shale says it took them time to change the mind-set of Basotho that their product has been tested and approved to enter the market without any health hazards.

Yet from the onset there was that attitude of the locals who were unwilling to support them.

With time that attitude faded away through their passion to make their way into the business.

Shale says good marketing strategies also help them to attract customers.

She says they work with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security Resource Centre at Masianokeng to encourage Basotho to plough their own food.

She says they encourage Basotho to use the locally produced goods and support one another.

It is her belief that Small, Micro and Medium Enterprises (SMMEs) are the hope of Lesotho’s ailing economy.

Shale says there is an attractive and largely under-tapped market opportunity for the country’s economic growth.

She says if Basotho could set up their own SMMEs, the stubbornly high employment rate and sluggish growth could be tackled.

Shale encourages women to gear up starting their own businesses and to apply massive efforts to get them up and running.

She says women should be empowered to start their own businesses and environment be made conducive for them.

The country should have policies in place that could help the women and young girls with financial resources to enable them be players in the business world, Shale says.

She says it is an undeniable fact that there are high barriers to entry into the market such as the inability to access capital and competition from established businesses.

Another issue she raises is the lack of access to finance for stock or equipment.

The determined business woman says many financial institutions want to see audited statements before extending credit to businesses.

She says more funds should be availed to help the country to up its game against high joblessness.

Most women in Lesotho could opt to be hawkers in the streets selling fruits and vegetables on a small-scale than raking in big investments.

And most sell from hand to mouth system where they are even unable to keep financial records making it difficult to get credit from financial institutions.

Shale says it has not been easy for them to push their dream but now they are happy because the heavens are smiling on them.

She says business is all about passion, love and persistence.

It is not an easy come like most people would think, she says.

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