All4Women Entrepreneurs is a monthly feature where we put the spotlight on amazing female entrepreneurs starting businesses in South Africa. This month we spoke to Mbali Nwoko (who started her farming business, Green Terrace) to find out how she did it.

  • Entrepreneur: Mbali Nwoko
  • Company name: Green Terrace
  • Industry: Agriculture
  • Employees: 8 -15
  • Year started: 2016
  • Website: greenterrace.co.za

The world is changing and industries are transforming, but through it all, the importance of farmers remains. Mbali Nwoko may not look like your average farmer: she’s young, black and female with qualifications in industrial psychology and business – but Mbali says she’s a farmer through and through.

Since she started her farming career, Mbali has been awarded honours and awards for her role as an entrepreneur and agriculturalist. She also shares her experience and expertise as a columnist in the agricultural magazine Farmer’s Weekly.

Planting the seed

Just months before she started farming, Mbali had never considered starting a business growing things and couldn’t even imagine herself as a farmer.

“A friend who had recently started a farming business introduced me to farming. Before that I had never even thought of it. I was a recruiter, a business owner and my business wasn’t doing as well as it had before. Farming was a great opportunity for another business venture and I went into it wholeheartedly,” says Mbali.

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Three years later, Mbali has become an award-winning farmer supplying spinach, marrows and peppers to mainstream food stores in South Africa.

Going all into farming

With her experience in business and people management, Mbali saw very little that could stand in the way of her getting her farm started and making a success of it.

“I am really good at getting things together and making things happen, so even though I didn’t have funding, I set out with a plan to rent a farm. Finding things online could be more convenient, but when you drive around looking through farming communities, you realise there are many more options out there than what is available online. This is how I ultimately found the farm I am working on right now,” explains Mbali.

Financial institutions wouldn’t give her a loan, so Mbali provided her own start-up capital for all the other things she needed to get the farm started.

“Resilience is vital as a farmer”

The average farmer is an older white man, and although Mbali doesn’t fit any of those categories, she says the biggest challenges in the agricultural industry have nothing to do with who she is. Instead, the challenges she faces are all about the unpredictability of the agricultural industry.

“Farming definitely isn’t easy. There are so many things that can go wrong on the farm and often things do actually go wrong. It is easy to be discouraged, but resilience is vital as a farmer,” Mbali adds.

Having learned as much as she could before investing in her farm, Mbali says there’s only so much you can learn from reading and listening to other people’s stories; some lessons she had to learn by making mistakes of her own.

Planning her own success

Green Terrace is still a relatively new farm, but Mbali has already won awards as a farmer (including being shortlisted as a finalist in the prestigious 702 Sage Small Business Awards) and her farming business continues to grow. Mbali credits research and a willingness to listen and learn for her success.

“At Green Terrace, we grow spinach, baby marrows, peppers and green beans. I decided on these vegetables based on research. These are all crops that are in high demand, none of them is grown by my neighbours and they do well indoors, where we have better control of our environment,” says Mbali.

Mbali also attends as many expos and farming community gatherings as possible, where she can talk to more experienced farmers and learn about new and alternative farming techniques she can implement on her farm.

The future of Green Terrace is even greener

There is no doubt, Green Terrace has done remarkably well since it was first founded, but Mbali says growth is definitely on the cards for the farm.

Mbali says that she doesn’t want to run the biggest farm, but I do want my farm to grow. “The plan is to produce more through efficient and sustainable farming methods. I am in the process of acquiring a new farm. We’ll be growing sweet peppers which are in high demand. I’m also looking into importing my produce in a few years.” We can’t wait to see Mbali’s business grow from strength to strength!

Read more of the stories in our All4Women Entrepreneurs series: