Social maker

Agripreneur 101: Fiery atchar maker shares his secrets

At just 22 years old, Modikwe Musi started his atchar business to inspire hope. He runs Musi Foods with his mother and ships its products to almost every corner of the country.

Modikwe Musi, founder of Musi Foods. Photo: Supplied/Food for Mzansi

Musi started his atchar business in 2020 in Pretoria during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns. While the idea for the product came from his mother, the start of the business was actually inspired by a challenge he received on Instagram.

“As the lockdown was hitting us hard and moving into level five, I used to do a few live (Instagram) sessions with an entrepreneur who I also met on Instagram. We tried to spread business advice across South Africa to just encourage and motivate people [and let them] know that things will improve, and even if we are in a chaotic situation, there is an opportunity.

The live sessions merged with #TheLiveFoundation, a social media movement where people donated money to various good causes during the live streams.

Successful sessions

“Through our live sessions, we ended up raising a million rand in a month. From there, we started giving back to the community, from food parcels to building houses and more.

Musi explains that it was during one of these sessions that he was challenged to start Musi Foods from scratch, without any resources or support, to show people that it is actually possible.

“I walked into the house and saw my mother making atchar, just to pass the time. It struck me that with my knowledge of e-commerce and everything I’ve learned with building online businesses, this is a product that I can actually manufacture and sell to the public. I don’t need a store or an office. I can make the product at home and then have carriers pick it up and deliver it. So we started the business.

Musi Foods

All of Musi Foods packaging and manufacturing is done in their home kitchen. Photo: Supplied/Food for Mzansi

Musi, with his mother Sibeka as head of operations, manages the social media and online part of the business.

“Using various social media platforms, we have managed to evolve and grow [Musi Foods] into a six-figure business within the first few months of operation.

For Musi, the quality of their product is paramount. He explains that generic atchar doesn’t always have the best quality mangoes and often has overpowering flavors. This is what makes their product different.

“In our manufacturing process, we partnered with local farmers and established a relationship that they will give us the mangoes when the season comes. And from there, we have our own seasoning and our own manufacturing processes that give us the product that we sell. Everything was done from home, all the packaging, the creation of the products, the recipes, everything was done in my mother’s kitchen.

Some Challenges

Turning a small business into a six-figure operation in a matter of months is no easy task and, of course, comes with challenges.

“It’s fun and great to make six figures and see how far we can reach the whole country with our atchar, but honestly we need a bigger team as it is, and better manufacturing and production facilities. [Right now]it’s just [my mother] and his small team cutting the mangoes themselves, spicing and packing them, and making sure everyone gets their order within three working days.

He explains that they are trying to deliver as quickly as possible, but they just need more resources.

Musi has the following advice for aspiring agripreneurs:

Start small but never think small

The first piece of advice I have, I got from Vusi Thembekwayo and he says, “don’t be afraid to start small but never think small”. I think most of the time we see what we have, and we think ‘this won’t be enough’, or ‘I need funding’ or ‘I need this and that’. We create so many mental barriers when starting out that if we started with what we have, we could still grow at a later stage. I think the biggest hurdle for many entrepreneurs who want to start a business is crossing the starting line. But always, when you start, you always have to think big and never limit yourself.

you will fail

You will reach points where you are not meeting your goals or your customers are unhappy. The business will have problems, but if you keep pushing forward and keep pushing yourself, it will be worth it in the end. So don’t give up at the beginning because of the challenges you face.

Your product is not as good as you think

There will always be someone better than you, but if you have a constant desire to improve and better yourself, you will get there too. You must always remember that your customer does not know your best product. You know your best product. So, give away a product that is good enough while still investing your time and energy in improving that product and you will blow away your customers’ expectations.

Believe in yourself more than anything

A lot of people won’t believe in you. Some because they simply don’t like your ideas, but others, usually family and friends, because they are afraid of the journey you are about to go on. However, when faced with negativity and rejection, you must always remember that if you believe in yourself and believe that you can do it, that belief will be more than enough to see you through the journey.

People first, profits second

One of the best things I’ve learned is that if you put your customers first and always give, give, give, they’ll want to support you no matter what.

ALSO READ: Agripreneur 101: A Skincare Producer Who Trusts Nature

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