Egging himself on

Baitshepi Sekgweng

Young entrepreneur burns bright with firewood…and eggs!

For Thabang Israel, it was the firewood that came first and then the egg!

The 29-year-old is the Managing Director of Issymal Holdings, a business which he started in 2017 initially focusing on selling firewood.

By 2020, as Covid-19’s powerful grip took hold, Israel was left with little choice but to branch out in order to survive, adding egg production to his small empire.

Based in the tiny Kweneng settlement of Gakuto, Israel’s enterprise is ticking along nicely, boasting an average turnover of 4, 000 eggs (at P2 an egg) and 1, 000 packs of 10kg firewood every month.

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However, he yearns for more…

  • Kindly regale us with the story of how Issymal Holdings came to be?

This entity was established in 2017 with funds from my savings. I later introduced the poultry side of the business, where I started with a mere P20, 000 to buy 200 hyline brown layers with the business based at a farm in Gakuto – two weeks later the first products hit the shelves. The number of chickens has since grown to 500 layers.

  • And before starting this business, what were you up to professionally?

Before establishing this egg production business my focus was on selling firewood, that’s how I earned my living. I still do it now and it forms part of my business portfolios.

  • What inspired you to diversify into egg production?

This was brought about by the need to help towards issues of achieving food self-sufficiency as a country as well as my love for chickens.

  • Your love for chickens? Tell us more!

At an early age I was keeping Tswana chickens and the experience I gained from this instilled the love I have for poultry production. Since I had realised my passion, I had to drive it towards my career path; that is how I got motivated and inspired to start egg production.

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  • So what does an average work day look like for you?

As the Managing Director, my day schedule is always busy since I make sure that the business runs smoothly. I do this through workers supervision and provision of guidance on the work to be done.

I also oversee the company’s daily operations with regards to financial performance, investment and other ventures on a daily basis.

  • Let’s talk a bit more about your firewood. How does Issymal ensure preservation of the mophane trees that you use?

By working hand-in-hand with the Ministry of Agriculture’s Forestry Department. More often than not, they carry out inspections to ensure that I conserve the environment by not cutting down trees but using only dead wood.

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  • How do you reach out to clientele?

I use platforms such as social media, exhibitions, Local Enterprise Agency [LEA] and National Agriculture shows to reach out to people.

Also providing quality products and being reliable by doing deliveries on time works for me since customers do the job for me by spreading the message through word of mouth.

  • What challenges does Issymal face?

There are quite a number of them, which include amongst others, hiring employees. Retaining employees is a challenge because I train them but after two months they quit which means now I keep on training and they go. Further, I supply government schools with eggs as our anchor clients.

However, government pays a little bit late which leads to loses due to cash flow problems.

  • How has being part of the United Nations Development Plan (UNDP) Supplier Development Programme benefited your business?

They picked me from the Grand Palm’s system because I have been supplying them with firewood since 2017. So, since they wanted small businesses owned by young Batswana, I made it to the programme.

They have provided mentorship in the form of financial literacy and inviting me to their exhibitions to showcase my products.

  • What does the future hold for Issymal?

For now I’m looking at producing more eggs in order to reach exporting stage.

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