ARMED with an MBA from Unisa School of Leadership, Vutlhari Chauke is an ardent planner and implementer.
She starts each day with a vision and is hands-on in her business, from production, planning, irrigation, scouting, sales and marketing, to quality control.
“I peruse excellence in all I do, so there is a constant drive to achieve quality production and sales targets, said the young farmer.
Vutlhari produces herbs such as baby fennel, coriander and wild rocket which are used to making of sauces and salads.
“I identified an opportunity for entrepreneurship, especially because there were few black females farmers in the space.
I differentiated myself through specialising in herbs which made the start somewhat exciting remarked the Mogale city-based owner of VT Harvest, which started in 2017.
Vutlhari told Mzansi Agriculture Talk that when she began, the intention was to venture into vegetable production businesses and make a lot of money. “But the volatility of customer preferences and climate change humbled me,” she says.
The focus is now geared towards incorporating value addition and agro-processing in her businesses model as a strategy for mitigating production risk.
She was assisted with a lease and mentorship by farmer Johan van den Bosch.
Buhari revealed her business is self-funded through personal savings.
“I downgraded my lifestyle and secured an off-take agreement before commencing with the production,” she said.
Well, what were the failures in starting and how did she manage to overcome them?
“Exclusive contracts can be a blessing for new entrants in the market but also a stumbling block if the off-taker has too many suppliers. We managed to secure additional customers through knocking on doors of restaurants, wholesalers which were a game-changer for us.
“We have been consistent in with serving our customers and have managed to grow our clientele through referrals,” said the young farmer.
To deepen her knowledge she reads entrepreneurship books a lot and Malcolm Gladwell is her favourite author.
What is that X factor that made her succeed and survive?
“I am a target driven and agile individual who is not afraid to fail. If a strategy does not work, I am quick to seek advice, revise the plan and keep moving.”
She’s thankful to individuals that helped her by sponsoring her education and through dedicated mentorship.
She is passionate about upskilling youth who are hungry to learn.
Vutlhari is will soon include tomatoes in her line of products and has received funding from SAB in partnership with Made With Rural to start a hydroponic facility specializing in tomatoes.