I was raised by independent businesswomen -- my mum and grandma -- and ever since I was a young girl, I have always been an entrepreneur. It all started with a bag of oranges.
I sold each one to make a profit and when my mom found out she told me to use the money to replace the bag. Much to her dismay, I then used the change to buy sweets to sell to all my school friends. It seemed I took after my grandmother who owned a butchery, a grocery store and other shops.
Later, I got married and had children, but then found myself single and unemployed raising three sons by myself. In 2005, I opened a “tuck shop” in a one-room shack. I only had enough money to buy one crate of cold drinks, a few bags of maize meal, sugar and tea to sell to my customers. It was a difficult time but I was determined to work hard for my family.
I did not go to school and learn business skills but I had passion and determination. I did not think I needed training because I was already running a business, but then, I went to a Coca-Cola 5by20 business skills training course and realized I had a lot to learn. It was my stepping stone. I learned to crawl, to stand up, and to walk as a businesswoman.
My business did well but my shop was so small people would say, “Bessie, your shop is so small that we cannot see everything in here.” I needed more space to grow.
Then, Coca-Cola gave me a “container” (a stand-alone shop) with public phones, a cooler and 15 cases of Coca-Cola beverages to get me started. I researched what my customers would like to see in the shop and my business did well. I made more money and hired an employee.
My youngest son is still in school, and I am proud because the money I make in my shop means I can give him an education. I am proud to say we have food in the house because of my business.
Watching my mum and grandmother work hard and grow their businesses while I was a young girl remains an inspiration and motivation for me to grow my business. Some people think I am now fine. But I am not done. One day I hope to grow my shop into a supermarket.
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- Coca-Cola Bottler transforms supply chain to support black-owned SMEs in South Africa