Powering a dream

Powering a dream

MASERU-GROWING up in Ha-Mohatlane, about 20 kilometres south-east of Teya-Teyaneng, Bokang Tsikoane was well known by schoolmates for selling balloons.
The 32-year-old would engage in his hustle during school breaks at the local Emmanuel Primary School, but little did he know that this was the start of a life of entrepreneurship.

“All I wanted at that time was to enjoy having extra money to buy what I wanted without having to ask my parents to buy me things,” he says.
When he moved to Maseru for his high school education at Khubetsoana High school in 2003, he did not ditch his hobby.
“I started selling biscuits and sweets,” he says.
At home, his mother would always complain about the attitude of her bosses. As a result, Tsikoane tossed away any ambitions for formal employment and continued hustling.

He invested in a scanner and a printer from his first stipend while pursuing Cost and Management Accounting at Vaal Technical University.
“I was running a small printing business coupled with selling sweets and cigarettes,” Tsikoane says.
“By this point I knew how important it was for me to raise money so that after four years when coming back home I would be able to start a business without having to take a loan.”

Then, the idea of getting into the chicken business hit him. During school holidays Tsikoane would often hear people complain about delays in receiving their orders for chicks from South Africa.
He then started researching on the business and identified chick production or rather a hatchery as a business he could try a hand at.
“Coming back home at the end of 2018 I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Seeking employment was never on the cards for me. Instead, I had a yearning to be an employer,” he says.

In March 2019, Tsikoane started BK Poultry and Hatchery Farm with the aim of easing access to chicks for local broiler farmers.
“My research had revealed that it sometimes took over three months for broiler farms to get chicks. Sometimes even after waiting that long, they would get poor quality chicks,” he says.
“This is because preference from hatchery farms in South Africa is given to South Africans.”

Unfortunately, just a few months into the business Tsikoane was scammed of about M4 700 while trying to secure chicks.
“I lost money through an internet scam very early in the business. This incident opened my eyes and from then I only sought information from credible institutions like the Department of Livestock.”
After surviving the scam, Tsikoane’s business took off and he was producing about 3 000 chicks a month but still, he could not meet the huge demand.

Seeking to increase his production but not willing to take a loan from a bank, Tsikoane tried his luck and applied for the Bacha Entrepreneurship Project (BEP), a youth entrepreneurial funding competition run by Standard Lesotho Bank, the Lesotho Revenue Authority and the Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (Bedco).
Tsikoane did not make it, but he had gained a set of skills that would better position him for other competitions in future.

“It was during BEP that I learned of a new Business Plan Competition (BPC) that Bedco would be launching, with similar benefits. I went back to the drawing board and prepared my business plan and submitted it when the competition opened,” he says.
“Luckily this time around I made it from 110 into the top 20 where we had to make a four-minute pitch and ultimately got into the top 10, thereby receiving M100 000 to grow the business.”
However, Lesotho, like the rest of the world, was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic making it difficult for businesses to operate.

“Procuring fertile eggs became a serious challenge due to the restrictions of movement imposed due to the pandemic,” Tsikoane says, adding that the disease outbreak slowed down his business.
Tsikoane, who had distinguished himself as a producer of high-quality chicks, did not close shop.
He turned to production of more indigenous chicks, sourcing eggs locally.
“Had it not been for this part of production I would have closed the business because Covid-19 had made it impossible to function.”

Striving to make it despite the odds, Tsikoane continued to produce quality chicks and as a result started supplying not only individual broiler farms and big companies in Lesotho.
“Thus far my customers are very happy with the quality of the chicks they get from me. It is because of their satisfaction that they have been referring a lot of their colleagues, friends and family in need of my services to me,” Tsikoane says.

With the aid of the M100 000 won from the BPC competition, Tsikoane has procured a bigger hatchery machine that will increase his production from 2 816 chicks to over 8 000 a month.
“This is still inadequate due to the demand that is in the market but I realise that Rome was not built in one day. Eventually I will get to where I will produce 20 000 chicks per week.”
Tsikoane says he understands that running the business single-handedly has certain financial constraints but “I am in it for the long run and with quality and good customer care, I will get there sooner rather than later”.
For now, Tsikoane is still the only fulltime employee at BK Poultry and Hatchery Farm.

“But as soon as the machines arrive, I will be able to employ people permanently, unlike now when I still use casual employees during the hatching phase.”

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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