Relebohile Moeng, 38, is founder and director of Afri-Berry, which she established in 2011, a year after leaving her executive officer job at the South African Optometric Association.
Afri-Berry, a premium, organic skin and hair care brand, turns over more than R14 million per annum and has won numerous awards which helped cement its place in the multi-billion rand industry.
Moeng, who holds an MBA from GIBS Business School, traces her foray into entrepreneurship to 2009, the year she survived a horrific car accident that led to 150 stitches on her pretty face.
She admits to trying different organic products to help with her scarring but to no avail. That was before she came across the cold pressed argan oil.
With the help of the Department of Trade and Industry, the married mother of two imported the oil from Morocco as she had identified a gap in the market for it. These were her first steps towards setting up her venture.
In fact, she started the company from scratch, with an initial capital of R10,000, which enabled her to rent a small office space, employing 15 people within six months.
Moeng says she persevered and gave everybody samples to try out, and within two months she was getting calls from potential government business investors.
Afri-Berry products are sold at Pick n Pay stores in South Africa, Namibia, Swaziland and Botswana, and at Edgars outlets in South Africa, Namibia and Swaziland. Their products are also stocked by independent retailers and the company has an online store in New Zealand, says Moeng.
She has travelled to the US, Nigeria, China, Tokyo, Mozambique and India to exhibit at trade shows, assess the readiness of the international markets for her organic products, and look at the latest trends.
Moeng, however, bemoans the trading restrictions to the European Union markets. She says to get certified costs north of R500 000.
She says it’s a blessing that the African Union has come up with the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
Moeng reveals that she is talks with Africa’s largest food retailer, Shoprite, with a view to sell her products in the Nigerian market.
“Our turnover now is R15m per annum. It’s by God’s grace because we are not doing any Through The Line marketing. It’s purely word of mouth,” she says.
Moeng says the plan is to cover more ground in the country by increasing the company’s market share; and approach more organic and health stores.
“We already have an online store in New Zealand,” says Moeng, from Pretoria.
“But the long term plan is to start exporting to the US, Japan, China, and Hong Kong. The numbers are there for us to be an international role player.”
Moeng won the best hair and beauty entrepreneur of the year, and best natural hair product range in 2018.
The other accolades she has scooped, among many others, include the African Corporate Excellence Awards (2015), Acquisition International (2016), and City of Ekurhuleni’s Best Empowerment Partner on Youth Empowerment for 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Moeng, who is originally from Johannesburg’s East Rand, says these awards are close to her heart because they are African.
“This is special because as an emerging company it’s often very difficult to play with the big guys,” she says.
“It has been a blessing to add to other awards we have, to endorse what we do and what we stand for.”
She says her company understand the needs of Africans better, is closer to the people and is involved in community based initiatives and events.
Moeng believes that there is no formula to success, but stresses that passion has a way of leading where one needs to be.