Behind every great wine is a great story, and that is certainly the case with the exciting South African wines being created by ngiyiMbali Brands. Founder Mbali Masike brings her own personality and taste profiles into each individual wine she creates, sharing stories and creating memories for her customers.
LoA chatted to founder Mbali Masike, to find out more about this exciting new wine brand in South Africa.
What does your company do?
At ngiyiMbali, we have a selection of wines that are produced in Paarl in the Western Cape. We offer our customers a choice of two Reds, two Red blends, a Chardonnay and a Rosè. All our wines have a unique story behind them. Our Pinotage is the most personal and special to me as it’s my signature wine. I had the most input when this one was made. Even though my mentor and I did not agree much when we made this Pinotage, when it was launched he called me a dark horse and that’s where it gets it name from - Dark Angel PInotage.
"ngiyiMbali Wines are simply beautiful wines, with a beautiful story behind all of them."
Our Shiraz is called Shoki named after my mother. My mother has alway played a huge role in my life and was the first person to ever give me a glass of wine despite her being a non drinker. I always laugh and say I guess she saw a drinker in me. Our Shiraz blend is named Mmino meaning Music. When this particular range of wines came out I had a group of my friends over to try them and this is the one bottle that was equally embraced by my sweet wine loving friends and those who prefer dry. It was a unity of two very different palettes. I instantly thought of music, as that is what music usually inspires in people.
We have a Cabernet Sauvignon blend named Sebata. Our mother is Pedi and we come from the lion tribe. Sebata is a dangerous animal, it’s a lion. This a bold wine. It’s as if it knows and owns it’s place just like a lion. Our wines are very fresh and easy to drink. Our Chardonnay is called Ha Senna meaning ‘it’s not me’. When this wine came out and I gave a few bottles to dear friends, most of them called and asked why it was finished so quickly. I laughed and thought, ‘it’s not me’ and my wine, you are the ones who drank it.
Lastly we have a Rosè named Dakalo, meaning happiness in tshiVenda. We thought of people who love Rosè. Those are your usually easy going and happy people. We played around with different words that mean happiness in different languages and we decided to go with Dakalo. So, that is an introduction to our current range of wines.
What inspired you to start your company?
It was a childhood dream to be honest. I tasted my first glass of wine just as I turned 18. I’m a late December baby and that year my 2nd dad had brought us a bottle of wine as a year end gift. I call him my 2nd Dad, not stepdad, as he brought me up. I love and recognize my biological father and him too. I have a stunning relationship with both and love them both dearly. It was nothing out of the ordinary that he brought this wine as he did this every year. The wines would usually sit in our house until someone who liked wine came along. My 2nd dad was not a wine drinker at all, he preferred beer, and my mom was a non drinker. This year it was going to be different - it was a festive moment and I was turning 18 and I would take that opportunity to finally taste this bottle. After nagging my mother several times she agreed that I open the bottle and taste it. We both didn’t know how to even open a bottle at that time. When we eventually did open it and and I took my first sip I hated it. She suggested I try it with some canned fruits that my granny had made and it was better. I then tried it with other food and again the taste of the wine changed. I loved how it’s taste would change every time I tried it with different foods. My love for wine began at this moment and being a science student I saw this as a chemical reaction. This was so exciting and I thought one day I would make my own wine. I drank wine for years until February of 2013 when I tasted a wine that I absolutely fell in love with. A childhood dream was ignited and I knew it was time for me to live my dream. I researched the maker of that bottle of wine I had tasted, who was a fifth generation wine maker called John Robert Frater from Frater Family Wines. I read about him and love his story of how in 2005 he cleaned up his family vines and started producing wine himself. I contacted Rob and asked him for a mentorship and at first he did not take me seriously. But when I traveled to the Cape with my then job, I drove to the vineyard to show Rob how serious I was. I told him I was not going to leave until he agreed. His family was there and they warmed up to me. We had some wine and at the end of the day Rob and I agreed he would mentor me. As a result of this journey, today you can enjoy this beautiful range of wines for yourselves.
"Our slogan is ‘It’s Personal’ and these wines are exactly that - personal to those who drink them."
Why should anyone use your service or product?
They are simply beautiful wines, with a beautiful story behind all of them. Our slogan is ‘It’s Personal’ and these wines are exactly that - personal to those who drink them. Take a sip, enjoy a bottle, and write your own personal story. Our wines are meant to be easy to drink, enjoy and fall in love with.
Tell us a little about your team
I have a beautiful team. We literally are family. Both my parents are very involved, with my 1st dad often running activations and promotions when the rest of the team is busy, and our mom often takes a co-ordinating role. My two brothers Nkamogeleng and Boikhutso are partners in the business, with Nkamogeleng having quit his job a year ago to be head of operations and Boikhutso who is a student takes the role of Head of Marketing - he is a true creative. The rest of the team is comprised of two childhood friends who are like family to us. Tshidiso is head of design as he comes from a very strong graphic design background, Lele is our Activations Specialist, and recently our cousin’s sister Lesego has also opted to leave her 9-5 to pursue her own personal interest and assist us in the Marketing department. She is in charge of our brand ambassadors.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I grew up very close to my aunt Mamogolo Mapule and she has never worked in the corporate world, she has always been a business woman. I have seen her have very good business times and not so good ones. There are times she has lost it all but she persevered. I love her spirit and have learned so much from her. My own journey has been beautiful, challenging but very beautiful. I believe my background in the corporate world helped. I grew to be in a senior position very quickly as I was always a hard worker and forever disciplined.
"Our wines are meant to be easy to drink, enjoy and fall in love with."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
The company is called ngiyiMbali Brands, because there are several other products we are planning on launching. Our next range of products is a brand called Just Jane Can, with our slogan being ‘tasting three generations’. It’s a range of canned fruits, jams, pickled chillis and vegetables, cheeses and olives, all under one product brand. Jane is my now 90 year old grandma whom I grew up making jams and canned fruit with. Part of my life I grew up in the South of Johannesburg in a place called Ennerdale, a primarily colored and Muslim area. My mom made the best pickles when we grew up and I’m a lover of cheese and olives. This is where this brand was inspired.
Our other brand will be an apparel brand. This was not a planned brand but was ignited by our clients. Often people want items we wear at activations and at our events we often have give-away caps and t-shirts, that was until it became expensive. One client asked to buy a cap my brother was wearing as he really liked it. My bothers and cousin sister Lesego then sat down and decided we should start an apparel range. It will consist of our 5 favorite items, as we don’t want to go too big at this stage. It will be caps, sweaters and t-shirts, trendy backpacks, watches and sunglasses. Lesego and my two brother are particularly involved in this brand, while I focus more on the Just Jane Can brand with my mother.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
Knowing that I’m building a legacy with my family, a legacy that all our kids will live, work and enjoy one day. Knowing we are depend on this business to work as we have all taken risks keeps us very focused. Just waking up in the morning I’m inspired as I know I am not working for anyone else, but it is for me and my family.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
When the time is right you will know take and that leap of faith. Fortune follows the brave. Don’t undermine your business, take it seriously and remain professional at all times, and in turn people will take you seriously as well.
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Why LoA loves it….
Having tenacity and the ability to chase a dream and turn it into reality are two traits that are essential to any successful entrepreneurial venture, and Mbali Masike has them both in huge quantities. Her passion for creating memorable wines that excite her customers, and for building her brand, is there for all to see. She is carving out a niche for herself and her family in South Africa’s legendary wine industry, and winning legions of fans in the process. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and ceo of Lionesses of Africa