Mokgadi Mabela is third generation beekeeper from Limpopo, South Africa. She moved off to Gauteng to pursue her life, career and all things yet her legacy of honey found it's way back into her life. Here's the story of how Native Nosi found it's way into our lives and into our pantries.
Origin: Is this what you call honey?
Mokgadi was working in public service in your normal office environment at the start of her career. She recalls the first time she had her tea break and experienced a new kind of honey, the honey most of us know. She was so shocked by the honey that she told her colleagues that she'd show them what real honey was like. Upon returning from a short trip back home to Polokwane she introduced her colleagues to the real deal, straight from the source. Her colleagues and friends were so blown away by the quality of the honey that they asked if they could purchase some.
Getting Nosi off the Ground.
The evolution of Mokgadi going all in with Native Nosi as a business was a gradual one. She knew that she had a quality product but even in the early stages the demand exceeded her fathers supply. This led to a process of getting other suppliers involved in Limpopo and making the first purchases of beehives.
Growing the Business
Native Nosi got off the ground via word of mouth and taking sales through email and spreadsheets. They prided themselves on working towards creating an extremely customer centric business with extremely quick responses and quick delivery times. They know that trust is not something you can buy and they've really worked to over deliver. In return they've been incredibly successful in retaining clients and have found word of mouth to be the biggest driver of growth.
Native Nosi now sees opportunity around every corner. Customers across South Africa are ordering their products and now it's being stocked by several Gauteng restaurants and small shops. Suppliers and wholesalers have approached them but they're not in a place where they can meet the demands of both their loyal customer base and other distribution channels. As mentioned before, Native Nosi will be opening the doors to it's first retail store soon and has some other exciting online store ideas brewing.
Mokgadi believes a big part of their growth has been about being authentic and relatable. She's carrying forward the legacy of her family as a 3rd generation beekeeper. To say that there are not many female beekeepers in South Africa is quite the understatement. Native Nosi has achieved a lot in it's first years in business and it's done so by staying humble, learning and growing organically.
The Product: Real Honey
Locally made and straight from the source. Every batch of honey comes straight from the local source. This means it might look, smell and tase slightly different each time. Customers aren't use to this because the honey industry has become more homogenous and global.
Good honey comes from thriving bees. Native Nosi works with a network of small scale farmers that produce crops that are in need of pollination.
Native Nosi has followed the bootstrap model. They've grown organically and scaled up their operation and network of farmers as needed. In the early days they saved some money by going with refurbished hives. In the early days they used a crowd funding platform to sell their first batches of honey and more recently used thepeople.co.za crowd funding platform to generate funds to buy some equipment. Through this platform donors receive payouts on the hives they help purchase although it takes about a year for them to produce.
Choosing an eCommerce Platform
Before having an online store Native Nosi was operating online via good ole email and EFT. A friend mentioned he could build an eCommerce site for a few thousand Rand and the rest is history. Early on they had no idea about the other eCommerce options but overall they've been very happy with WordPress + WooCommerce.
What theme do you use?
Native Nosi is using Shopkeeper theme.
What do you like the most about WordPress + WooCommerce?
Orders come directly to her phone which makes it fun and easy to track how well they are doing.
Are there any challenges with WordPress + WooCommerce?
The team at Native Nosi isn't super tech savvy so they rely on outside help to make changes to the website. They are looking to hire an intern very soon to help ramp up marketing efforts on the website and social media.
What Apps and Services do you find most useful?
Yoast SEO is the most popular an powerful tool to improve and monitor your sites SEO - Search Engine Optimisation.
YITH is a premium WooCommerce plugin that help stores create beautiful and functional wishlists.
How has Covid-19 impacted your business? How have you responded?
At the start of Covid they sold out quickly and weren't able to quickly replenish their stock. The entire operation was impacted drastically. Now that the farmers are back to work they will be able to soon ramp up their production. Covid also slowed down plans Native Nosi had in the works to launch their very first retail location. After much consideration they are going to go forward with launching the store in Pretoria as it doubles as a workspace for them to handle packaging, storage and business operations.
"Initially it negatively impacted our production and we soon realised we had to reinvent ourselves even with the restrictions and so we decided we’d go through with opening our own shop and also include other local products that would augment our offering so we could make sales beyond honey. We wanted to celebrate other indigenous supplies that are also immune boosting essentials to assist our customers during this pandemic."
Brooklyn Leather Pencil Bag
Who do you use for Payments and Shipping? What are the pros and cons of these services?
Courier Guy, they switched more recently to ensure speed across South Africa. They recently switched from Payfast to Yoco's new WordPress plugin. The rates for Yoco were better and it's setup for POS and online payments.
Advice for other Entrepreneurs getting started?
"The most important thing is to start and the rest will come as you go"
"You don't always have to do things to impress people. Invest in yourself and do what you do best and people will recognise you. Whatever you do, do it with pride"