Lessons learnt from a young tomato farmer

One of the key skills entrepreneurs learn is to weave their story (the why) into their pitch.

For that reason, I want to share the story of a young entrepreneur called Yandisa Langa, founder and owner of Mountain Tomatoes and a resident of Masiphumelele. He was the overall winner in the Centre for Entrepreneurship’s (CFE) inaugural Poster and Pitch Competition. It proved worthwhile, as he won the Gold Award, a R15 000 investment as seed capital towards his business. He produces and supplies tomatoes to food retailers such as Food Lovers, The Food Barn, Easy Big and Café Roux. Taking a leap of faith, Yandisa initially pitched his business idea to an organisation called Living Hope.

With R30 000 in start-up capital, he found a plot of land to rent and started his tomato farm. Months later, he is producing A-grade tomatoes to sell into the wholesale market. An ambitious entrepreneur, Yandisa is looking to expand his fresh-produce range to include spinach and spring onions.

He began with what he had

Too many entrepreneurs want to start when everything is in place; risk is minimised; funds are flowing and markets are established. This is ideal, but hardly practical. Yandisa started with what was in front of him and has built his business steadily

He was willing to start small

Like many students in today’s economic climate, he was unable to find employment. He showed character by taking on a job as a security guard. Interestingly, it was while he was doing this that he first saw the opportunity.

He saw and acted on an opportunity

While at the Noordhoek Farm Village, he noticed that restaurant owners were ordering tomatoes from areas as far as 30km away. This was a logistical challenge, and he thought of growing tomatoes in the area.

He committed himself to working hard

If you visit his tunnel on Living Hope’s ground, you will see the evidence of hard work. The tunnel has some 800 plants; is well protected with plastic and irrigated by drip irrigation.

He displays a high sense of responsibility

Successful entrepreneurs consistently all have a personal entrepreneurial competency called an inner locus of control.Those with an internal locus of control: are more likely to take responsibility for their actions; tend to work hard, feel confident in the face of challenges; report being happier and more independent.

He understands the drivers of his business

When questioned by judges at Poster and Pitch and Pitch and Polish, Yandisa was able to show competency and forethought. He had considered risks to his business; knew the numbers and was aware of the opportunities in his market.

He deliberately sought partnerships to leverage his business

Yandisa has developed good relationships with Living Hope, business clients and the CFE. He is looking at leveraging being a beneficiary at the CFE to grow his footprint and increase his crops.

The CFE has launched a rapid incubator and is looking for graduate students and/or young people within the engineering and furniture-making industries. Contact Yondi Titi at 021 201 1215.

Email comments or questions to Steve.Reid@falsebay.org.za