There are numerous women out of the limelight who are doing the most for people
BUSI GUMEDE is the founder and CEO of Goodlife Foods. The company provides natural kefir products, which offer probiotic and other health benefits, under the 'KePro' brand. Busi oversees the overall functioning of the company, formulates its products, manages production and marketing, and looks after customers.
Busi was raised by her grandparents and "practically grew up in their trading store near Bulwer". Her biological mother was too young to take care of her and became like an older sister, whilst her grandmother became her mother and role model. "I tried to walk like she walked and to work as hard as she did," Busi says. Her family expected her to become a doctor, but she loathed working with blood and studied for a BTech, Food Science degree instead.
After her studies, Busi moved to Cape Town and became a food selector for Woolworths and then a quality assurance manager for the Oceania group. On returning to Durban, she took over the family's traditional trading stores, transforming these into convenience supermarkets. However, changing shopping patterns, brought about by people in the townships buying goods elsewhere and criminal activities affected the business. After being shot at, hijacked, robbed and brutally assaulted, she closed the stores and lost almost everything she owned.
Providing engineering services
A marketing agreement with the advertising agency Ogilvy and a joint venture with Ikusasa Communi-cations followed. Busi offered marketing services to Eskom, but an opportunity to consult and help with their electrification drive followed instead. She had enough drive and vision, but no qualifications or staff. Fortune favoured her, however, as suitable people became available following Eskom staff retrenchments. Busi formed a company, Global Pact Consulting, recruited staff and commenced transmission and distribution work two months later. She acquired an understanding of engineering, and the business became successful, employing 450 people nationally.
The future seemed bright until 2009 when, as Busi puts it, "the giant fell, taking us with it". Eskom failed to make payments for eight months, and banks turned on her company due to its Eskom link. Retrenchments became inevitable and the company downsized in 2012 focusing on smaller contracts.
Consequently, Busi became stressed and very sick. She had surgery, but realised she had to heal herself. On a friend's recommendation she tried kefir, which led to her amazing healing. Kefir which translates as 'feeling good' was however only available in limited quantities from health shops.
Busi, perceiving a commercial opportunity; 'cheekily' contacted the Danish Dairy Board since Denmark is a world leading supplier. The board hosted her, and she learnt about the production, distribution and difficulties of growing kefir.
This resulted in Busi founding Goodlife Foods and formulating products beyond what Denmark offered. She is proud of making breakthroughs in her own kitchen including developing unique spoon kefir, which is eaten like a yogurt. New processes were developed for the product that is now registered as a new dairy segment in South Africa and spelling changed to Kephir.
The products are available on a small scale in KwaZulu-Natal, but a production facility is being built near Lions River to produce Goodlife Food's products on a large scale for national distribution.
Busi ascribes her achievements to hard work and to grabbing available opportunities. Busi says her grandmother has been her biggest inspiration. "Her strength, wisdom, and achievements without formal education are amazing."
"People who have achieved something although they started with nothing and came from nowhere impress me. There are numerous women out of the limelight who are doing the most for people." However, Oprah Winfrey inspires her with the way she has overcome several obstacles and created a prosperous global brand. And says Busi, my children are a true litmus test, I am in awe of them! "My children do inspiring things daily."
According to Busi, women need a different approach to business than men. "When I started my business as a young person I was often viewed as a child, not a capable businessperson. I have found that women need to prove themselves repeatedly and work harder to get the same results as men."
Busi is content and grateful for what she has accomplished so far. She would, however, like to do and achieve more. "When you start in business it is about what you can do for yourself, but as you grow as a person, doing things to change people's lives for the better becomes important."
She finds that achieving a work-life balance is difficult if you try to do everything yourself, especially as a single mother of two children. "Achieving a balance is about allocating enough time for business and my children whilst leaving some for myself."
Busi would advise her younger self, the person she was at about 20, to marry after first studying and travelling, and to get more exposure to the world before starting her own business. "Such advice could have saved me lots of money and pain."
Busi says she does not care about money anymore, it is more important to do something for people, especially young women needing help to get their businesses off the ground. "This has become a passion and I am in the process of starting a fund to support people to get their businesses going."
BUSI GUMEDE is the founder and CEO of Goodlife Foods. The company provides natural kefir products, which offer probiotic and other health benefits, under the 'KePro' brand. Busi oversees the overall functioning of the company, formulates its products, manages production and marketing, and looks after customers