INSPIRED by her business-savvy parents and running her own businesses as a child have contributed to the success of young Port Elizabeth entrepreneur Benita Jones.
Jones is not only the owner and director of Producer Ally – a company that assists farmers to export their perishable products – but also recently made it onto the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber’s Top 40 Under 40 list of achievers.
Jones grew up on a farm in Fort Beaufort. In addition to their farming operation, her parents ran other businesses to pay the bills.
“My father had a furniture business on the farm, producing the most beautiful solid wood furniture – and still does today in Bedford, called Eagle Hout. My mother had a boutique, and a few other smaller businesses when I grew up. She was also a lecturer at Fort Hare University and has [a] doctorate in psychology.”
Today, her mother not only helps to run Eagle Hout, she is also involved in several community upliftment and job-creation projects in Bedford.
“Having such amazing parents has inspired me to brave the business world.”
She had her first brush with business while at school.
“I started a little shop on the farm, selling all the basic necessities, not only to our own farmworkers, but also to the workers from surrounding farms. At one stage, I had a bit of a ‘shebeen’ on the side, which quickly came to an end when my dad found out – but boy, what fun.”
When she was in matric, Jones owned an African clothing shop in Fort Beaufort. “I sadly had to close down when I went to Stellenbosch to study.”
“I loved being independent [at] a young age, and I thank my parents for always supporting me in all my endeavours.”
She matriculated from Winterberg Agricultural High School and then “tackled” a degree in financial management and accounting at Stellenbosch University, but completed the degree part-time at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. “I was desperate to start working and to earn an income. Part-time studies allowed this.”
She said she was “lucky to have an amazing business partner”, Liezl Pentz. Together they founded Producer Ally in November 2006.
“Producer Ally can be best described as a logistics facilitator, [which assists] and [guides] growers, or exporters, to export their perishable products. We focus on the containerised shipping of fruit, transport, cold storage and … documentation.”
Her background inspired her passion for the industry. “However, I also saw my parents’ eyes when they had to sell our farm. My hope is that Producer Ally will be able to help growers, or farmers, achieve the best possible returns on their product. We consider ourselves to be a sort of a ‘Robin Hood’ set-up, and believe that our efforts assist the clients we deal with,” she said.
“Don’t be afraid to reach out to other business owners. Always align yourself with positive people and chose your team carefully. Most importantly, look after your team if you expect them to put in the same effort,” she advised aspiring entrepreneurs.