Nondumiso Pikashe has a strength that shows through her tentative greeting on our second meeting on a rainy winter day in Cape Town. The same strength allows her to claim her space in an industry dominated by men, most of whom are white and historically more advantaged than she ever was.
Nondumiso taught high school in Cape Town for more than eleven years before her curiosity and entre led her to embark on a career that is not commonly associated with black women. She is the founder of Ses'fikile Wines, an indigenous brand developed by a dedicated team of wome n.
While the brand is sIowly making inroads in the domestic market as well as overseas, Nondumiso says the industry remains a hard one to break into and recounts how she was recently told by a major retailer that Ses'fikile was "too ethnic" to appeal to local wine consumers.
Growing up in Gugulethu, Nondumiso says alcohol has always evoked mixed feelings and she wanted to learn more about wine, and winemaking, in order to try and resolve these feelings.
"I have a history with wine. My brother used to abuse wine and in my community people used to look down on wine. Yet when I looked in the media there was this beautiful projection of wine. It was portrayed as something elegant and beautiful. There was that mysterious allure about it so it evoked a lot of curiosity and interest in me.
"Also, being born in Cape Town, I have always been part of the industry, and yet it remained foreign to me."
Because of her teaching background, Nondumiso was keenly aware that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds were not informed about the career prospects that the winemaking industry offers and she set out to remedy this.
She approached the provincial education department and undertook to visit schools in disadvantaged areas across Cape Town not only to highlight the career prospects in the viticulture industry, but also to teach young people to appreciate wine.
Her business also offers aspiring winemakers a chance to work and learn alongside the team of qualified women who are responsible for the polished product Nondumiso takes to the marketplace.
Nondumiso is keenly aware that there are still a few stumbling blocks to overcome on her path to success with Ses'fikile but she is resourceful and resilient and her passion will help her achieve her dream.