Meet the boss
- Sweet success for Sweet Sensations
Inspired by her business-minded parents, Sebusamathe Mokgwe always dreamt of one day starting an enterprise of her very own.
Although her first venture quickly fizzled out, the 38-year-old never gave up on her dreams.
In 2018, the qualified accountant returned with something a little special: Sweet Sensations, a company that makes premium hand-crafted indigenous flavoured chocolates.
What started as an idea in Mokgwe’s kitchen has slowly developed into a full scale business with a workforce currently sitting at seven.
is the sweet story of Sweet Sensations…
Kindly introduce yourself?
I’m a 38 years old married woman with three kids from Ramotswa. I have a Degree in Accounting & Auditing from North West University in South Africa and ACCA part qualification from Botswana Accountancy College.
Take us through your career path before you established Sweet Sensations?
I worked for more than ten years in the Finance and Auditing field. But I ended up deciding that I need to do business, so I left my job because I wanted to build an empire for myself, inspired by the legacy which my parents left since they were business people too.
Summarise Sweet Sensations business model?
Business wise we mostly produce chocolate on orders, so you just make an order then we are able to cover it before the deadline. We do this because chocolate is a sensitive product, so when you produce it you might as well need a shop but that has proven to be unfeasible since two of my competitors closed down their operations.
Most importantly we make money on calendar celebrations such as Valentine’s Day, Easter holidays and Christmas, other months business is just moderate.
What chocolates do you make?
We specialize in premium hand-crafted chocolates with a taste of indigenous fruits such as morula, kgeru (morula seeds), mmilo and motoroko (prickly pear). We use sustainably sourced Botswana native fruits, harvested by elderly women in the village seasonally.
What inspired this idea?
When we started, we used to do cakes and simple chocolates together with my partner but the partnership elapsed. However, I still believed there was so much potential in the chocolate industry so through entrepreneurship development courses I attended, I discussed the idea with many other participants. That’s when the idea of doing indigenous fruit flavoured chocolates came about. I said ‘let me be different’.
Sounds like the business comes from humble beginnings?
When we started we were operating from home in my kitchen but as beneficiaries of the Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL) Kickstart Programme, they bought us some equipment and we were able to rent a factory in Ramotswa. But as Local Enterprises Authority (LEA) clients we ended up applying for space at their incubators and we got a factory there in Pilane, where we are currently based.
The good thing about the incubation is that you are able to get services easily and even now retailers are starting to listen to us better when we seek shelf space for our products.
Where do you source your raw materials?
We get 60 percent of our raw materials from outside the country, which is cocoa from Ghana and Kenya. Then 40 percent is indigenous fruits which we get from local women who collect for us then we pay them. We are creating employment and empowering them as locals.
What challenges does Sweet Sensations face?
The main challenge is market access.
Another challenge is that we are yet to be able to preserve mmilo such that we have supply throughout the year.
Further, Batswana compare our chocolates with other international brands without realising that we do hand crafted premium chocolates and are not into mass production. So they cry off at the P35 price, which they compare to foreign brands. But we are not impatient; we will keep on educating them to get to understand the product.
With those challenges, how are the products performing in the market?
Response is quite good though it’s just that people are finding it difficult to see out products in stores. It’s not easy for retailers to get our products; of course we are in talks but for now we are yet to strike deals.
Recently, I graduated from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) ATISA Supplier Development Programme which really helped a lot since now retailers are willing to listen to us. I was blessed to have Chedza Marobela, who helped me with taking the products to retail space.
She took the project to heart, as if it was hers so I’m grateful to her since even post-graduation she is still hard at work taking products and samples to retailers. Though we have not closed a deal, now they are willing to bring us on board.
Where did you get the technical know-how for chocolate production?
I just did short courses online while some were at an institution in South Africa. Some of the knowledge I acquired through tutorials on YouTube.
For now where can Sweet Sensations products be found?
We sell our chocolates in retail stores and curio shops in Botswana, we make turndown chocolates for safaris, hotels and branded chocolates for corporate companies and private events.
Our chocolates are currently available at Square Mart Food Lovers Market, Hilton Garden Inn Hotel and Koncept at Sir Seretse Khama Airport, and other outlets. Square Mart has always supported us since April 2019, with creating shelf space. Even if we run out of stock they always assure us of the space and advise us to sort ourselves out and return.
Sounds like you’re an extremely busy woman – how do you manage it all?
It’s not easy to juggle family duties and business but my family and husband have been very supportive, more especially financially. And one, Tshepiso Botlhole, who is our Graphic Designer, has been a pillar having been with the company since the early days when we were still doing strategy and branding.
LEA Ramotswa also played an important role in getting the business off the ground through their advisory service they offered to us.
There was a time in which I was running a restaurant in Ramotswa alongside the chocolate business but I ended up closing it to focus solely on chocolate production.
What are your future ambitions for Sweet Sensations?
I want to see Sweet Sensations carrying the Botswana flag high, increasing our product line and being able to export. We have already started the process since we just completed an export readiness course with UK in Botswana through the Trade Forward Southern Africa programme.
Your last words?
I urge people out there to show up as entrepreneurs. Even if you are not willing to go further or not feeling it, never give up because you never know what opportunities lie there. Just grab every opportunity that comes your way!