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Striving to be the Best Poultry Farmer

 Striving to be the Best Poultry Farmer

By Andrew Ngozo

In a classic case of desperate situations call for desperate measures, Nonkazimulo Dinkie Mthembu’s foray into the poultry farming business in November 2019 was more than just clutching at straws. For the 32-year-old Hammarsdale, KwaZulu Natal-based business woman, it was a matter of life and death as her livelihood was at stake. Dinkie had just been retrenched from her job as a security guard and all she had was a paltry Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) payout to chart her path to survival for the rest of her young life. She appropriated R4 000 of the lump sum to use as start-up capital for Dinkie Poultry. Barely a year later, the fledgeling poultry farming business has not only survived the trying COVID-19 times but it has come into an element of its own; emerging stronger as one of the chicken suppliers to be reckoned with in the greater Durban area.

“I had no idea what poultry farming involved when I started out. All I had was the dream to be a successful business woman and the will to realise that dream,” says Dinkie confidently. Her purchase of 100 chicks to kick-start the business was an investment well-made. “I literally went in blind in this business because I had no prior training. I didn’t even possess any formal business qualification to help me start up the enterprise. So, as one can imagine, those first few weeks, and even months, were a steep learning curve,” she reveals. Setting out as a virtually unknown chicken supplier, with meagre resources, Dinkie struggled to get into market. But she dared not give up; she used word-of-mouth and social media as marketing platforms in the wake of a crippling cash flow crisis. However, Dinkie states that she had given birth to the poultry farming idea and she dared not give up. At least not at that point in time.

 SAPFSA membership is the Best Business Decision Dinkie Made

Dinkie is the sole proprietor and owner of her business. Although she has not been able to hire any employees yet, her solo operation has been so successful that it has she thought that she should join the  South African Poultry Farmers’ and Suppliers’ Association (SAPFSA) while still riding the wave of success. “After my initial capital investment, joining SAPFSA was the second best decision I have ever made. It is one thing to try and go at something alone but it is quite exhilarating to go at that project with such an association as SAPFSA,” Dinkie enthuses. She acknowledges that the poultry farming sector is a cut-throat one but Dinkie believes that she will “do just fine” with the association by her side. “The association knows the lay of the poultry farming land in Durban, KZN and South Africa better than I do. I believe that they have assisted thousands of young female entrepreneurs like me succeed. Failure is not an option. As a matter of fact, in the short period in which I have been a member, I have noticed a huge difference in my business, thanks to the coaching I receive. For instance, I have discovered that some things that a chicken farmer considers as mundane are not,” shares Dinkie. She adds that she looks forward to the ‘pleasant developments her chicken farming business will realise with SAPFSA holding her hand. Above all, she hopes that the association will help her gain some ground in her quest to get funding for the enterprise.

Does that she got this far without any external help mean should mean that Dinkie is quite capable of taking Dinkie Poultry to the next level? The answer is an emphatic “No!”, explains Dinkie. “Starting out a business in what has been a predominantly male dominated sector is a tricky balancing act. It has been especially so for me; venturing into business with no prior experience at a tender age and being a woman. I suppose, thus far, I have survived by sheer luck and I bet that the association will be very instrumental in my survival and growth going forward,” she notes. It is her wish to expand her business in the near future. Because she currently operates from home and uses the family sedan for deliveries, Dinkie envisions a future where she owns a farm and fleet of delivery vehicles; selling chicken feed and other products. Dinkie points out that she might throw in some mentoring in the mix because she believes that gone are the days when her generation should feed off government grants or wait to be employees when they can be creators of employment themselves.

COVID-19: A Dinkie Poultry Opportunity in Crisis

“Women have always been a bedrock of society and I think that, now more than ever, it is up to us to do more than be the proverbial house keepers. There is so much more that we can do to drive South Africa’s economy forward. My niche has been poultry farming but women can [certainly] thrive in other sectors,” the well-spoken Dinke states. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a blessing in disguise, the pedestal that she needed to launch herself into the business sphere. She says that the company experienced exponential growth during the national lock-down in March. “I was an essential worker of sorts because demand grew as most people were not able to go to work. The early stages of the lock-down were the busiest. At times supply could not meet demand but I broke even. Had I known then what I know now, thanks to SAPFSA, I would have handled what I call my ‘lock-down crisis’ much better,” Dinkie elaborates. 

The Future Shines Bright for Dinkie Poultry

Dinkie is optimistic that, like her name Nonkazimulo (iSiZulu for Mother of Glory), the future shines bright. “If I look back at what I have achieved in less than a year, do I need to spell out how things will be for me in five years’ time? In fact, five years is too far ahead into the future because I want to see a bigger and better Dinkie Poultry as early as in 2021. With SAPFSA by my side, I think only time is the hurdle here because it cannot be hurried. From the bottom of my heart, I want to empower my community, especially women. I do not want to just create employment but more female entrepreneurs,” Dinkie says. With the gusto that she oozes, one has not an iota of doubt that Dinkie will realise this dream too! 

It is gratifying to know that Dinkie does not believe in the ‘Pull Her Down’ (PHD) syndrome that seems to be so rife in the South African business circles. “I know that starting out in business is difficult for most of us but all it takes for success is an idea. I lost my job but that was not the end of the world for me. It was the springboard I needed to launch myself into the business world. Any young person can get to where I am now and even go beyond my success levels. Regardless of what sector one is interested in, they can succeed if only they are hungry enough to see their dream through,” Dinkie advises. According to her, now is the opportune time to for women to enter into the business realm instead of aspiring to be the ultimate home maker. “Marriage is well and good for us. But it does not work in your favour if you go into it empty handed. I encourage fellow young women to venture into poultry farming or another type of business in order that they can have value in their marriage. Besides, you might be short-changing yourself if you enter into the marriage institution with nothing to fall back on”.

The Person Behind the Entrepreneur

Asked about her perspectives concerning women in business, especially female poultry farmers, Dinkie indicates that more can be done to increase their participation. “The poultry farming space is currently dominated by men although women are slowly making their presence known. However, there are not quite as many women as I would like to see given that women make the bulk of the population. I think government should take solid steps to bring in more women into poultry farming. Important role players like the SAPFSA need to also increase their advocacy role. They have a national presence, know the challenges in the sector and, so, they are in a position to better lobby and influence the decision makers to formulate policies that will drive the poultry farming sector forward. In the same vein, they can encourage women and young people to take up poultry farming as a career and business,” Dinkie opines.

Among the many hats that she wears, Dinkie is also a sister, friend, wife and mother of two who always makes time for the loved ones in her life. “My life is not all about work. I have to make time for my family and other important people in my life and I try to give them as much quality time as I can. When all is said and done, I am doing everything I can to be the best for my business and the people in my life,” Dinkie concludes.


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