When Adversity Becomes an Opportunity: The Story of Lesengkeng Foods

15th March 2022

There is a proverb in Setswana that says  “Eetshetlanyana etsala eerunneng” which can be loosely translated as a poor cow can give birth to a fine calf. 

When a herder realizes that a cow is underweight, they don’t give up and slaughter the cow immediately, they improve the cow’s diet to make her healthy again. There’s a lesson that entrepreneurs can draw from this.

Although the past two years have been filled with external difficulties and entrepreneurs may have struggled to adapt and rebuild, are there opportunities to grow and build resilience during this adversity?

Let us see how this has played out for one of our South African entrepreneurs.

Last year we sat down with Mzi Nduna, Director of Lesengkeng, a food business that was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lesengkeng supplied school tuck shops in South Africa with food and beverages. However, due to the global pandemic, the schooling system in South Africa was disrupted many times, forcing Lesengkeng to pause their service to the schools. 

During this period, Mzi enrolled in AMI’s Survive To Thrive (S2T) programme, which was designed to empower SMMEs and MSMEs to overcome Covid-related challenges.

While in the programme, he learned new skills, gained access to financial tools and resources, and interacted with other entrepreneurs across Africa. As a result, he was not only able to keep his team together, but also identify opportunities to restructure and grow his business.

As a team, we had to review our plan and that is when the AMI Scenario Planning Tool came in handy. We had to revise everything and eventually we came up with a short, medium, and long-term strategy for the business.” 

Because he participated in the Survive To Thrive programme, Mzi now conducts process analysis in the form of daily checks which helps them to: 

  • Determine whether targets are being met
  • Leverage upselling opportunities
  • Explore new channels to add to their line of business.

Since the beginning of their journey with AMI, Lesengkeng foods has managed to sign new deals with two schools in South Africa.

It is interesting because now, using AMI tools and materials has become part of our culture. We use AMI materials daily as we work towards getting back on track.”

With the on and off lockdowns in South Africa, Mzi confesses that for him and his business, things are still tough. Despite these challenges, he is grateful for the opportunity to learn and take a moment to reorganize his business, which is now paying off. 

Mzi attributes most of Lesengkeng’s foods success to his team and says that a business is all about teamwork, which is among the top key lessons he learned at AMI. 

I have learned how to manage, encourage and support my team better.”

Looking ahead, Lesengkeng foods will continuously upgrade their offering and identify gaps in the market to explore new opportunities for growth, such as canteen management for corporates, supplying stationery and office products, and even providing clean water for rural areas.

During these testing times, it is critical for business owners to have a good team, upskill with the right tools and always remember that hardships can still give birth to new opportunities.

If you are an entrepreneur or business leader looking for new ways to grow or motivate your team in 2022, check out AMI’s programmes.  You can also reach out to us on partnerships@africanmanagers.org if you want to support small businesses like Lesengkeng foods to achieve growth.

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