1. What brought you to where you are today – a woman in agriculture?
Agriculture has always been part of my life in a way. I grew up in the rural areas, underprivileged, and I used to help my grandmother plant crops such as vegetables. These crops provided us with much needed food. I can say that’s where my ‘green fingers’ awakened. When I moved to the city, that was when I realised how much I missed my passion for growing crops.
Since it is not easy to obtain a farm, my husband and I decided to start at the ‘front end’ by bottling olive oil. This is where we started, and we are working towards the ‘back end’ – which is to one day own a farm and grow our own olive trees and produce our own olive oil, sustainably.
2. Are there unique challenges as a woman in the olive growing and olive oil making business?
Yes absolutely. Having a full time job as a medical technologist, being a mom, a wife and running a business has been a big challenge thus far. Sometimes, I don’t think that there are enough hours in a day as I struggle to find a balance, but I have proven to myself, beyond reasonable doubt, that it is doable.
3. What are the hard skills you need to make it work?
When we started, we literally had to do everything ourselves. I would say, my hard skills are creativity. I designed the packaging which was very important for me, as I believe that packaging is an essential marketing tool, as they say “great packaging creates perceived quality”.
Another skill would have to be marketing, because we need good marketing skills to get our business out there.
4. What are the soft skills you need to make it work?
Hard work, determination and consistency.
We have received so many push backs and rejections, especially from retailers, but that has not stopped us from pushing. We keep on working hard and being consistent in order to deliver our service efficiently.
Determination helps me to keep pushing regardless of what is put in front of me.
5. What has been a highlight in your career in the olive industry thus far?
My highlight would have to be joining the SA Olive Industry.
When we started our business, we didn’t even know that the industry existed, but ever since we became members, we have received tremendous support from them. We have met amazing people who want to see us succeed, and they are also mentoring us into being the best that we can be.
6. Why do you love what you do?
I love what I do so much because I believe I’m living my ultimate purpose. Creating an organic brand from nothing and turning it into something and knowing that one day I’ll curb the rate of unemployment in this country, is very fulfilling.
7. What does the future hold – for you, your business, and the country?
Oh my! That’s a big one. I want to be the catalyst that changes how South Africans perceive olive oil. I want to inspire young girls who are in the rural areas who think they cannot dream big, I want them to know that anything is possible, and that where you come from does not define your destination. As a business we want to see Let’s O’Live as a household name in South Africa.
8. Do you have a funny story about your time in the olive business?
When we started out, we thought we had quality oil – but that was up until it had to go for CTC (Commitment to Compliance). Only then did we find out that it was not the exceptional oil we thought it was. We then had to go back and learn more about olive oil and the industry as a whole.
9. What does your support structure look like?
I have support from my biggest cheerleader, my husband, who is also the co-founder of the business. Our families from both sides have also been tremendously supportive of us and they all fuel me and keep me going.