‘Middlewomen’ in action

NICHE MARKET: Vuyokazi Sitho-Headbush, left, and Ntomboxolo Bassie. Picture: MARK WEST
NICHE MARKET: Vuyokazi Sitho-Headbush, left, and Ntomboxolo Bassie. Picture: MARK WEST

Veterinary medicine on your doorstep

Operating from deep within a Nelson Mandela Bay suburb, two Port Elizabeth women are bucking trends in a male-dominated agricultural sector by carving out a niche business in veterinary medicine deliveries.

Former poultry farmers Vuyokazi Sitho-Headbush, 35, and Ntomboxolo Bassie, 45, established Koena Letsatsi Cooperative in 2012 and have since seen their enterprise grow from strength to strength.

Speaking from their Rowallan Park home office in Port Elizabeth last week, the entrepreneurs explained their business was established as a result of their own bitter experience after losing their chicken stocks and as a result, their poultry business.

This, they said was due to a lack of veterinary products needed to treat and maintain their poultry.

Undeterred by their setback, the women soon realised there was a gap in the market for accessing and delivering veterinary supplies to the thousands of livestock farmers across the Eastern Cape.

Taking the proverbial bull by the horns, the women now operate a successful logistics management company which essentially acts as a middleman, or rather middlewomen, between veterinary manufacturers, suppliers and farmers.

“We were always interested in the agricultural sector but we didn’t know how to penetrate it without any formal studying or skill that could make us hands-on,” Sitho-Headbush said.

From wound treatments to disinfectants and vaccinations for cows, chickens, sheep and pigs, Koena Letsatsi orders the medicines through animal heath company Afrivet and arranges to have them delivered, via courier or other means, to farmers as far afield as in Graaff-Reinet in the north-west or as far as Cofimvaba in the north-east of the Transkei region.

“We used all of our savings to start this company. However, it has now grown to employ a marketing and branding manager and two part-time employees,” explained Sitho-Headbush, who went on to say that the logistics side of the business had been branded as Letsatsi Logistics.

Sitho-Headbush said their biggest challenge had been convincing clients to trust them.

“We compete with long-established companies such as BKB and farmers had been buying directly from suppliers even though it costs them more. This made it tough to get a foothold into the sector,” Sitho-Headbush said.

“We spend much of our time researching and keeping our ear to the ground for any epidemics,” commented Sitho-Headbush, who is a former Collegiate Girl’s High School pupil.

Sitho-Headbush, of Kwazakhele, holds a business management diploma from the University of South Africa (Unisa) while Bassie, of East London, holds a public management degree from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

The two women share duties in the business with Sitho-Headbush being in charge of maintaining and growing their client base, while Bassie handles administration and the operations side of the company.

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