Africa needs more women entrepreneurs helping to address the continent’s food security challenges, and one such entrepreneur is Innocentia Maine, the founder of MIS Poultry Farm in South Africa. She is taking her love of farming and building a poultry business that she sees as the first step in creating a multi-faceted successful agribusiness of the future, and one that will hopefully inspire other aspirant women agripreneurs to follow in her footsteps.
LoA chatted to Innocentia this month to find out more about her business and her hopes and dreams for the future.
What does your company do?
MIS Poultry focuses on broiler production. We buy day old chicks, care for them until they are fully grown, and then sell them to various local communities for consumption.
"I had no business background at all, so the business has been my learning tool."
What inspired you to start your company?
I had always wanted to start a business but worried most about failure. I was scared that not having much capital and any business background I would not succeed. After some years of being unemployed, I attended a leadership training programme called Activate Change Drivers. I got to meet youth who were doing so much great work and even through all the challenges they had encountered, they still had a fighting spirit and ready to do all in their power to see their dreams come true. And that is where I got the courage to decide that I had to face my fears and see where I would get in life. I decided to start in poultry because I had always loved farming, and it seemed like the kind of work I would enjoy and wouldn’t get tired of doing. I also had to consider the space and resources I had, and poultry was the good starting point for me to kick off the business.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
We supply fresh poultry at reasonable prices. Our chickens are mostly sold live, with the option to slaughter and deliver on request. We decided to sell directly to customers because not only will that give us the assurance that the clients are always getting fresh meat, but is also means our clients will get more meat at a lower price as there is no middle man (retail stores), which would inevitably mean it would have to cost a bit more so that they can also make some profits.
"I used the internet to know more about broiler chickens. I would search the net to find information on how the coops must look, and what equipment they use. I had to learn about the kinds of feed I needed to buy, and even search for day old chick suppliers. The journey has not been easy at all but it was worth travelling."
Tell us a little about your team
Because I started the business in my mother's back yard, she would help me with caring for the chicks, selling and slaughtering the chickens, and my sister would also help deliver orders to her work place. Recently, we moved to a new place and we now house 800 chickens, increasing to 2100 by February 2015. My team now consists of 3 additional members who help out with caring for the chickens. They help with feeding, cleaning coops, slaughtering and with security, as the business is now on the outskirts of town.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I had no business background at all, so the business has been my learning tool. I used the internet to know more about broiler chickens. I would search the net to find information on how the coops must look, and what equipment they use. I had to learn about the kinds of feed I needed to buy, and even search for day old chick suppliers. The journey has not been easy at all but it was worth travelling. The experience has taught me to be more open to learning, to trust myself, and to have confidence in both myself and my work. I am still on the learning road as now I have to learn about managing the business formally and making sure that it succeeds and grows bigger than this. I would love to be more involved in livestock, so this is a big step I must get right so that I will be able to tap more into other agricultural sectors in the future.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
I look forward to supplying more people with my chickens, nationally. I want to open my own shop where people can walk in and buy slaughtered chickens. I am looking into getting some layers and hatch my own chicks. I would love to venture into a piggery and cattle once I have built a solid foundation on poultry. Maybe at a latter stage, open an abattoir and start distributing.
"The feeling of creating something so small and seeing it grow is just amazing. Seeing that I started off with little knowledge and have made it to this stage gives me a push. I also get happy when I see clients satisfied with our products."
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
The feeling of creating something so small and seeing it grow is just amazing. Seeing that I started off with little knowledge and have made it to this stage gives me a push. I also get happy when I see clients satisfied with our products, it is more fulfilling when they refer other customers to buy our products because they were happy with the quality of the product themselves.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Never let fear get in your way, its just there to hold you back. Women are capable of doing anything they set their minds on, so they must never be afraid of challenges. We just need to think positive, always dream big, and leave no room for negativity.
Contact MIS Poultry Farm: Email Address email@example.com
Why LoA loves it ….
At LoA, we love those inspirational women who often start out on their entrepreneurial journeys with seemingly impossible hurdles in front of them, but whose drive, determination and sheer will to succeed overcomes all the challenges. Innocentia Maine is one such entrepreneur, and shows to the rest of the continent that if you are determined enough, willing to learn and start from scratch, and work incredibly hard to achieve your goals, then anything is possible. This is just the start of an amazing entrepreneurial journey - watch this space! --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa