Powerful African plant moringa has been around for centuries. Popular for its medicinal purposes, moringa is mostly revered for its potent antioxidants which qualify it as the most trusted remedy when treating ailments such as hair and skin disorders, balancing mood swings and helping combat bacterial infections.
Rooibanch co-founder Sibusiso Ndlovu shares the secrets to making his moringa juice, which is known as 100% Moringa, part of the modern healthy lifestyle by making it an essential component of the daily diet plan while creating jobs in the process.
The sight of a moringa plant signifies two things. To an untrained eye, it is just a plant that produces the moringa fruit. To an entrepreneur, the tree represents a path out of unemployment.
Rooibanch is a Mpumalanga based start-up that is run by five family members, including Sibusiso Ndlovu, which grows moringa and uses the plant to manufacture their own moringa juice.
“We started selling our drinks in the local townships with my younger brother. We would go to town with 2 buckets, selling only 500ml bottles to a very diverse range of customers, some of whom appreciated our product, while others were not so receptive,” says Ndlovu.
“We managed to generate R700 from our sales on the first day, that was when we realised that we should treasure this product and turn it into an official business.”
Due to the lack of sustainable economic opportunities in the area, Ndlovu decided to use his family farm to grow moringa and this became central to the formation of Rooibanch.
Access to market
Since launching in 2017, Rooibanch has been able to organise resources necessary for the plantation of moringa, as well as the machinery needed to produce the juice.
However, the industry is not without its challenges. Ndlovu has led the small business from one hurdle to the next to create a sustainable and viable opportunity that has grown into a job creator for his community over the years.
Ndlovu has experienced the hardships imposed by the red tape that prevents new businesses in the farming and agricultural sector from blossoming and reaching their full potential.
The product itself is renowned for its health benefits, however, it took Ndlovu some time to understand that launching a successful product doesn’t rest solely on the inherent qualities of the product but also on the dynamics that the market functions on.
“It is very hard to have access to information and also secure opportunities that enable us to supply the formal market and get contracts which can assist the business to grow,” enthuses Ndlovu.
100% Moringa is available is some of the major retailers including Spar, which is one of Rooibanch’s biggest distributors.
“Our business is now getting guidance on business management from the workshops received as part of the SAB Tholoana programme, which I believe have helped the business to adapt and grow.”
Business during COVID 19
The outbreak of COVID 19 in March shook the business down to its roots. According to Ndlovu, he has had to re-evaluate a few things in the business and make the adjustments accordingly in order to absorb the impact of the downtime.
It is very difficult for small businesses to absorb a slow-down in business, specifically one that is imposed by a pandemic with no definite time frame to the effected restrictions.
“We had to close our business for the first two weeks as it was impossible for us to carry on operating. That decision resulted in a major loss of income for the business, meaning that we also had to shed 18 jobs due to the cancellation of the night shift.”
“As a business, we had to restructure our operations. We were fortunate enough as were allowed to operate during the lock-down as essential service providers and that gave us a chance to remain visible in the market,” he concludes.