I first met Debbie Ncube, owner of Eden All Natural Products, at a supplier development expo last year.
That engagement was sufficient for us to ask her to be the guest speaker at our entrepreneurial graduation in April this year.
Debbie is an entrepreneur, wife, mother and businessperson. She studied accounting at school but felt a little limited as she wanted to start her own business and consequently went on to study business itself.
She is someone who loves seeing opportunities.
At primary school she already started a small venture by selling sweets and other products.
Her first venture as an adult was offering accounting services to small businesses.
In her words, she likes the idea of feeding the nation and living a life that is different, adding value to others.
She didn’t suspect it would end in a business creating peanut butter.
So why peanut butter? Her granny used to make and sell peanut butter, so the secret sauce and concept was passed down from her granny to her many years ago.
Eden All Natural Products is naturally produced and has less processing, and no preservatives.
Debbie went from selling 50kg a month to selling 15 tons per month.
She went from a kitchen with limited equipment, with a value of R1 000 to a factory in Maitland, with equipment exceeding R1 000 000 in value.
But this journey didn’t happen overnight. There were regular challenges. One of these was how does someone making peanut butter part time from a kitchen supply a national company.
Like many other entrepreneurs she had to deal with her own self doubt and the voice of criticism in her head.
Yet, guided by the response she received from friends and acquaintances, she realised she was sitting on a gold mine.
When wanting to give up and feeling overwhelmed by logistical challenges, the thought of missing out on this wonderful opportunity kept her focused.
This choice was also fed by observing people with lifestyle health challenges.
Some of the peanut butter products in stores were very different from her childhood memories and so they launched this business in 2011/2012.
She was doing accounting during the day and producing peanut butter at night. Sharing with friends provoked an appetite and this saw her transitioning to starting the business fully in 2014.
When asked about her “why”, Debbie speaks about being gripped by passion and at the same time, not wanting to miss out on this wonderful business opportunity.
She says it would be wonderful to show young kids out there that you can make it; that there’s always a way to get to where you want to.
There were times however, that Debbie didn’t want to get up in the morning, when she, like other entrepreneurs faced discouragement and a host of seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Yet, the thought of feeding the nation with the correct foodstuffs fires her up every morning.
She is currently supplying Pick and Pay stores; selected Spar stores in the Western Cape, Wellness Warehouse, Faithful to Nature shops and manufacturing businesses.
When asked what four things she’s most proud of, she referred to becoming a supplier to the stores mentioned, generating a hundred-fold monthly income over five years; employing 12 people in three provinces and finally, growing in perseverance and resilience to achieve these outcomes.
When asked about her biggest challenges she reminded me that all businesses have their own difficulties but one that came to mind was cash flow problems.
Her remedy for this is to stay away from debt and don’t extend yourself until your turnover has increased substantially.
Getting the right equipment and the right team mix is also important. As a business scales you need to have the right resources and systems in place to manage the growth.
I asked her what advice she would give to budding entrepreneurs.
The past six years have given her three great lessons:
Never give up. Remember the size of the opportunity when you are feeling discouraged.
Use what you have. When needing to buy equipment for R10 000 and not having access to this finance, she took the money from her savings.
Know what you want. Write down your five to 10-year plan and work relentlessly at achieving this.
August is Women’s Month and I asked her for a word to other women: “There are many women who have made an impact in South Africa in the past and in the present, I believe that when you empower a woman, you empower a nation. Women see with their hearts and they see the best in communities. To the women out there, be the woman you can be but make sure you do the best with your womanhood.”
Steve Reid is the manager of the Centre for Entrepreneurship (CFE) at False Bay College. Entrepreneurs with creative ideas in manufacturing can also contact the CFE at 021 201 1215.