This is the story of one woman’s vision to make quail eggs an everyday healthy food item of choice, whilst at the same time, helping others to build their own successful businesses in her company’s supply chain.
Linda Cronje is the founder of the wonderfully named Tweeter Quail Products, based in Polokwane, South Africa. Her story is an unusual one - she originally trained as a teacher, then went on to become a lodge owner for ten years, and thereafter became a property consultant. It was whilst she was working in the property business that she was forced to make an alternative career plan in response to tough market conditions in the property sector in South Africa. When the market saw a growth slowdown, Linda decided to spend her energies doing something creative for herself. Entrepreneurship seemed the route to take and that was when she decided to look at the quail product business. In South Africa it is still a very small business but Linda is passionate about the quail and its product potential. When she realised the value and the market potential of both the quail eggs and the quail meat, her entrepreneurial interest was peaked.
"There are so many people with fantastic abilities and they never utilise them fully. So, if you can only help one person at a time to get them going in business, then you are making a difference."
She says: “In today’s health conscious marketplace, quail meat has almost no fat, it is very nutritious, and the eggs are healthier than a chicken or duck egg. As people are so much more aware of the importance of nutrition, and want to get rid of too much sugar and fat in their diets, then quail could provide a healthier meat and egg direction to go in for consumers. At Tweeter Quail Products, we are using Japanese quail, which although not a local species, is perfect for the African environment as they are easy to raise, they don't get ill and are extremely healthy birds.”
“We have started with 1000 birds and we have a constant breeding programme and our aim is to get to 9000 birds by the end of next year, 2015. This growth strategy means that if you have 9000 birds, your production can escalate exponentially. So, the first 1000 is the most important figure to reach. We also plan to slaughter the first batch after a year, so the meat is still fresh, tasty and soft - this plan also responds to the fact that quail do not lay as many eggs after one year. Another interesting fact is that quail feathers are much sought after by the fishing community as they are used as lure.”
"Quail is such a fantastic food product for the mass population but they just don't know about it or have access to it. Quails are incredible egg layers, they can lay eggs for Africa!"
“One of the challenges in farming quail has been that here in South Africa, the feedstuff required to raise healthy birds was not quail specific, so the plan going forward is to produce a whole range of quail feeds. We already have the laboratory set up, we can do the product testing, we can produce and sell the quail feed that is specifically produced for them. We are now building a real micro industry around the quail in South Africa. We are creating a new market for quail here now, it is a niche market and currently quite an expensive product, and as a result, the general public tend to eat it just when they are in a restaurant. So, what I am now doing with Tweeter Quail Products is making it a much more accessible and less expensive product so that the average South African consumer can eat it everyday. It is so delicious, so nutritious, and so healthy - everyone should have the opportunity to eat it in their everyday diets. Young people today are very much more aware about the value of nutrition, they understand the importance of quality food that is healthy, and ultimately, that is why quail should appeal to them, it ticks all these boxes. Quail is so versatile and can be used in so many ways when cooking and preparing them, in fact, they are the ideal school lunchbox snack as they are small and can be easily eaten by young children. If you are busy at home or at work, and you don't have time to eat a full meal, quail eggs are the idea snack on the go and full of great protein. In fact, at Tweeter Quail Products, we have a range of quail eggs that are coloured using totally natural food dyes such as beetroot, to make them hugely appealing for both children and cooks alike. They are a healthy alternative to sweets, but look just as good to eat.”
“In terms of our business model, I created this company in such a way that I have contractors that I supply with birds and they in turn supply me with the eggs and meat for marketing. This works because I can’t market the produce and grow the birds at the same time, both are full time jobs. So, I have spread the process over two groups - the one group breeds the quail, and the other group grows it and then supplies. I do all the training of these groups with the birds, and I also teach them how to start up and run their businesses, and how to properly look after these wonderful birds. The idea is that we are empowering a whole new business supply, particularly with the introduction of the new feed business, there is potential for a whole new group to be trained up in business in this area. I also give these groups a percentage of my company as well, at no cost, and they share in the profits as well in the company. So far, we have created three of these micro businesses, but I am looking to expand this to five. Each one creates jobs for the local communities in which they are located and each of these businesses has the potential to grow and become substantial enterprises in their own right, each one specialising in one key part of the business chain.”
Just be brave, if you have something that you want to do and you are passionate about it, then make a start. Surround yourself with people that can help you, who can provide advice and support, and are as passionate as yourself about what you are planning to do. You cannot have hangers on, you need people that will work with you to achieve your goals.
“So what gives me most satisfaction as an entrepreneur? Well, it is growing a business for myself whilst at the same time being part of helping other people to start from scratch and seeing them growing into a successful business, because that is what we need in South Africa. Lots of people have an idea of perhaps starting a business, but they don't know how to get going in the first instance. I can help them on their business journey. This gives me great joy, seeing someone successfully starting their own businesses.”
“Looking into the future and aspirations of where the business can go, I have done some research into the feeding schemes that the United Nations is running in Africa, and recognising that so many of the third world countries are suffering in terms of food supply and nutrition. If I can do something to help, in the form of dried quail meet and dried quail egg products which are incredibly nutritious and can be stored easily without refrigeration and reconstituted easily, ready for cooking and eating, then perhaps I can make a difference.”
Why LoA loves it....
We love Tweeter Quail Products because this is a new startup story in South Africa, but one filled with passion for the product, big aspirations for the future of the business, and headed by a key woman entrepreneur champion who is helping others to build their businesses in the community and really make a difference to people’s lives. --- Melanie