Nashville — Ramokone Sannah Kwakwa is not your average 23 year old. She has garnered a large following on TikTok for her poultry farming. She sells slaughtered chickens, chicken manure, live chickens, fire wood, eggs and mopane worms — from the semi-rural area of Spook Park, South Africa.
Being a woman starting a small business is difficult, "especially if you have no financial backup. It is very hard to survive," she said.
Ramokone started her business in her mother’s backyard using two rooms in a tin roof house. In a few months, the initial capacity of 700 hens was increased to 1,500. Her business started to boom and she expanded to her grandmother’s garage five minutes away. It was initially able to host 60 hens but soon had to host 240.
Business growth continued and now has a coop which can accommodate 1,500 more chickens.
Prices are set by the production cost, and she tries to adjust prices all the time. She has noticed how feed prices have increased. She offers lower costs for those who cannot afford it.
Ramokone, who is in her final year at Tswane University of Technology studying Public Affairs, used money from her bursary allowance to start her business.
“If it was not for COVID-19, I would not be able to run the business. I was a full-time student then,” she said.
In South Africa, there are challenges with electricity, so she uses fire heat to warm the chicks when they are young. “From day one they need heat until 14 days,” she said.
“I faced delays in my broiler growth as load shedding may take six hours meaning they will have six hours without access to feed and water. But, I’ve made an alternative as I use fire to warm up and rechargeable light for lighting the house.”
She and her grandmother work full-time on the business.
“Getting employment is very very very hard,” she stressed. Unemployment rates in the country were 32.7% in the last three months of 2022.
A few of her relatives are also business owners. Her mother sewed clothes such as industrial uniforms and school uniforms, and her father was in the construction business. She credits her mom as her inspiration.
“Because I was young, I also liked to go with her when she was selling. I used to tell people ‘Hey, my mom is selling this. Come and buy.’”
She shared information about her mother’s business with her elementary and high school classmates and teachers in order for her mother to get more business. She wants to exit out of poverty and said “Instead of using the [bursary money] for other activities, try to invest the money elsewhere.”
Ramokone wants young people to know the importance of farming and agriculture, as well as the importance of investment. She has used her profits to grow her business and believes that passion is essential for entrepreneurship.
She did not think she would be doing this. Her initial plan was to go to college and get a job. She believes that her business will still exist in 10 or 20 years and hopes to expand the amount of land she has for farming as well as the number of persons who might be able to assist her.
She wants people outside of her hometown to know that “No matter what age you are, no matter what background you come from, you can make your dreams come true.”