When your marriage and business end at the same time, it obviously can affect your confidence and your state of mind. Mikie Monoketsi experienced it and still managed rise up again and launch Mama’s Spices and Herbs with just R10 000 – here are some business lessons from her story.
Jumping into business with life savings
Monoketsi had started a call centre business using her life savings without doing intensive research – merely trusting that what others were doing in that industry had proved to be a lucrative business to tap into.
When Monoketsi and her then-husband went into it, they didn’t think they were going to lose both the business and the marriage. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened…
Monoketsi had a choice to either save them both – even though her energy and confidence were non-existent at the time or to move on with her life.
Having decided to move on with her life, what followed was a roller coaster ride. The bills were piling up and trying to keep the household running while dealing with divorce proceedings proved to be both taxing and impossible to do without money.
Picking up the pieces
Monoketsi later decided she was done crying and blaming herself for going into the call centre business. While looking for other ways to keep the debt collectors at bay, that is when she decided that whatever business she was going to start had to deal with building confidence and empowering other women.
A few months later, Mama’s Spices and Herbs was born with just R10 000.
Still, starting a business with just R10 000 is one thing, sustaining it, another. This is one of the many lessons Monoketsi learned soon after starting Mama’s Spices and Herbs.
One would think that someone, who started a business before and failed dismally, would approach the next business idea with caution. At least that’s what Monoketsi thought she was doing.
Importance of researching a business idea
The main reason why her first venture – the call centre, failed was because of a lack of research before starting it and processes in place to minimise risks while it was up and running.
With Mama’s Spices and Herbs, Monoketsi went into townships and villages to understand what households use in their kitchens to season food. She also found out about the spices and herbs people were against as they had been blamed for conditions like high blood pressure.
This confirmed Mikie’s idea; she was on the money if she produced affordable high-quality spices and herbs. Off she went and did exactly that with the help of a certified seasoned spices and herbs manufacturer.
Sales and Marketing crucial for business – even for a brilliant business idea
Still, Monoketsi soon realised that her research focused more on the products not necessarily the sales and marketing of these products she was producing.
Her marketing and sales strategy had to change, as she initially thought retailers would easily stock high-quality spices and herbs.
To be fair, they do, however, it is not an easy task to get products onto their shelves especially for a new female-black owned brand no one knows about.
She was stuck with products with no retail house behind her. As you can imagine, she felt defeated and again ready to just give it all up and focus on something else, in other words, she thought she had failed.
“Marketing and sales of products is not an easy task. I nearly lost everything once again due to not paying attention to the lifeblood of the business, without sales there is no business. I now know better,” Mikie explains.
“I have managed to profitably penetrate the market, and this could have not happened as soon as it did if I had carried on with pursuing the retail market.
“My focus is on empowering women like me and I plan to do so for the next 15 years.”
Seizing on opportunity
As fate would have it, Mikie met a gentleman, who delivered potatoes to Kota restaurants in Cosmo City. She was able to tap into his existing clientele, thus giving her new sales and marketing ideas.
“When the product is good everyone wants a piece of it, Kota restaurants customers wanted to try these spices on other foods they were preparing at home.”
Monoketsi decided to hire the Kota restaurants as agents, selling directly to their customers on a commission basis. That is how she saved her business and in the process built a national network of agents.
The business grew in leaps and bounds introducing other products like the Flat Stomach Tea, which Monoketsi is now known for. Other agents have since left their jobs and sell on a full-time basis.
Expansion into cosmetics
Today, with offices in Randburg, Monoketsi is launching a new product line of basic makeup kits suitable to use under the African weather conditions. These kits consist of a foundation, mascara, lip gloss, and concealer.
“I am one person who has made it my business to understand the black female consumer market in South Africa. Black female consumers don’t just buy things for the sake of it, however, buy things they see will add value to their lifestyle not disrupt it,” Mikie says.
“How that looks like in real life, lies in products like Flat Stomach Teas which since launch have helped them with their weight, and now we will witness it with the make-up kits I am introducing suitable for their different skin types and the harsh African weather conditions.”
Sometimes all you need is a will to pick up the pieces of your life after a traumatic experience, which might have left you desperate and destitute. Money is needed, but it will not do much for you without that will. Mikie Monoketsi is living proof.