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Lessons from a tomato grower

One of the key skills that entrepreneurs learn to do is to weave their story (the why) into their pitch.

For that reason, I want to share the story of a young entrepreneur called Yandisa Langa.

Here is an extract from the article in the TVET times:-

Yandisa Langa was the overall winner in the CFE’s inaugural Poster and Pitch Competition. He responded to the invitation to graduates and existing students of the College to enter the competition called Poster and Pitch. He entered as a graduate, having studied public administration at the Fishhoek campus.

It proved worthwhile when he won the Gold Award. The award consisted of a R15 000 investment as seed capital towards his business. Yandisa Langa is the founder and owner of Mountain Tomatoes. He produces and supplies tomatoes to food retailers such as Food Lovers, The Food Barn, Easy Big and Café Roux. Taking a leap of faith, Yandisa initially pitched his business idea at an organisation called Living Hope. Living Hope is mandated to help young people with loans to start-up their businesses. With a R30 000 in start-up capital, he identified and secured a plot of land to rent and started his tomato farm. Months later, he is producing A-grade tomatoes to sell into the wholesale market. An ambitious entrepreneur, Yandisa is looking to expand his fresh produce range to include spinach and spring onion. Through his on-going relationship with the Centre for Entrepreneurship at the College, Yandisa will continue to receive the support he needs to develop his marketing plan to grow his market share. Yandisa has also competed in the more recent Engen Pitch and Polish competition. His wildcard entry reaped great results, as he has proceeded to the next round of the competition.

This humble, likeable young man made many decisions and took specific actions. I share these in the hope that you may be able to apply and benefit.

  1. He began with what he had.

Too many budding entrepreneurs want to start when everything is in place; risk is minimised; funds are flowing and markets are established. This is ideal, but hardly practical. Yandisa started with what was in front of him and has built his business steadily over the past year.

  1. He wasn’t unwilling to start small.

Like many students in today’s climate, he was unable to find employment. He displayed character by taking on a job as a security guard. Interestingly, it was while he was fulfilling this role that he first saw the opportunity. Would he have seen it if he was unwilling (for a season) to work to bring in an income?

  1. He saw and acted on an opportunity.

Whilst at the Noordhoek village, he noticed that restaurant owners were ordering tomatoes from Phillipi. This was a logistical challenge and he thought of growing tomatoes in the area.

  1. He committed himself to working hard.

If you visit his tunnel on Living Hope’s ground, you will see the evidence of hard work. The tunnel has some 800 plants; is well protected with plastic, and irrigated by drip irrigation. This was put in as a consequence of his own personal hard work. Budding entrepreneurs sometimes stumble because of the high need of hard work in getting their business going and growing.

  1. He displays a high sense of responsibility.

Successful entrepreneurs consistently all have a PEC (Personal Entrepreneurial competency) called an inner locus of control. This essentially means the entrepreneur takes responsibility for their progress, failures and growth. They don’t use the language of blame, but understand that if it is to happen…it is up to them.

  1. He understands the drivers of his business.

When questioned by judges at poster and pitch and Pitch and polish, Yandisa was able to show competency and fore thought. He had considered risks to his business; knows the numbers in his business and is aware of the opportunities in his market

  1. He deliberately sought partnerships to leverage his business.

Yandisa has developed good relationships with Living Hope, clients and the CFE. He recognises the need for a strong supportive environment. He is looking at leveraging his being a beneficiary at the CFE to grow his footprint and increase his crops.

I trust these decisions and actions may add value to your own business.


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