We met up with Lerato Makgotlho owner of Lemak bakeries in Naledi, who shared her views and experience as a female entrepreneur.
Lemak Bakeries, Naledi Soweto
1. Tell me about your business, what are you doing exactly?
Lemak bakeries is based in Naledi next to Thomas Mofolo high school; about 600 metres form there. We are a bakery providing all kinds of baked treats to individuals, corporates and restaurants. We started informally in 2015 and in 2016 we started running it formally registering it a CIPC. Everything started in the kitchen at home.
2. How long have you been doing it?
I have been baking past 4 years. Started doing it for fun my colleagues loved it, I worked at Woolworths and a lot of my baking inspiration came from there. I would Google recipes, play around with them until I found the perfect combination of ingredients for me.
3. When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I’ve been selling for a long time. Honey products, m-way products. It was for an extra income but I felt that I was working for somebody else whereas I wanted to own my business with my name behind it, something that I could own and grow.
4. What resources (not just financial) did you have when you started the venture? Did you feel prepared to start the venture at the time you started it?
I started small with what I had at the time. I had some savings which I had planned to buy some equipment. I started with 1 bucket a day, and I’d put the profit aside towards equipment. I have retail experience which helped. I was an accounting student, a really good one at that, and that has been helping me too.
5. What goals did you have when you started the business? Have you reached them? How have you adjusted them?
When I started my goal was to have as much equipment as possible to make 2D/3D cakes to meet the demands of the customers. Then following thereafter it was to open up a shop and have walk-ins, which I have been able to do. Now I am working towards having as many reps as I can have and employ people as work increases through the reps. The idea behind Lemak Reps is to empower youths in the area who can save to open their own businesses, further their studies and more. I currently have 3 reps, 2 youths from the high school up the round who stay in the same street and one from the township. They come get a bucket in the morning and sell throughout the day, I pay them weekly. I try hard to monitor what the high school students do with the money so that this opportunity doesn’t end up working against their futures.
6. Where do you see your business in 5 years from now?
Minimum of 3 branches with reliable managers. I am currently working on a system that will operate without me because eventually I need to come out of the system entrusting the functioning of the shops to different people.
For now I want to stay in the township build my brand, grow my corporate Identity.
7. What are the disadvantages and advantages of being a woman in business in South Africa?
Women are a priority in terms of government strategy however the world of business is still male dominated and most of the time women find themselves in compromising situations in order to get ahead. In the same breath men are becoming insecure and making it harder for women to get ahead.
8. What challenges have you personally faced as a woman that are specifically related to operating a township business?
I personally don’t have too much pressure on me due to the support system around me, my family, father of my child, friends. Sometime I have to be at the shop at 2am but I know my family is there to assist prepare my son for school even if I’m not in. Lemak Bakeries is still breastfeeding so I have to be there watching nurturing her daily 24/7 ensuring that she is able to run without me one day.
9. What challenges have you personally faced that are specifically related to operating a township business.
Pricing. There are certain prices that people in the township expect due to what they have in their pockets and are not willing to pay more than that. For example as much as I would like to introduce cheesecake to my product list it’s not really feasible, I would not get a customer for it. I need to be able to produce what the community can afford. I do however have a wider range of products for customers who are willing to pay for them.
10. What would you like to say to the consumer who lives in or around a township but prefers to consume from businesses outside of the township?
As we grow and are exposed to a lot of things our perceptions and expectations change. It is to the township business to meet the expectations of customers who are in the township or in the suburbs. I told myself that I would open a store that would capture any customer irrespective of where they come from. Many of our township business take things lightly and fail to plan properly, are you providing quality in all areas, appeal, product etc? Will a person in LSM 10 feel comfortable entering your shop. If your answer is no then you need to rework your approach. So for me it’s not on the consumer per se but on the business owner.
11. What do you think it will take to get South Africans to start spending their money in the township?
Media plays a huge role on business life cycles, so I think businesses need to upgrade their marketing and advertising and the quality thereof ensuring their product reaches a wider range of South Africans. It is when the consumers know about you that they will be able to invest in your business. The businesses that have money to do quality marketing will always do better that the business that is relying on word of mouth.
12. What advise do you have for any girl or woman out there who would like to become and entrepreneur?
If you can think of it then you can do it. If it’s on you mind go out there and make it happen. There are a lot of stages in entrepreneurship, it’s not an easy journey there are hurdles you will come across you just need to have the strength and proper mind set to get through. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, get a mentor, several if you must that will assist you in different areas of building a successful business. Start young it gives you enough time to fall and keep getting back on your feet.
Contact: 082 414 2863 Facebook: @Lemakbakeries