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Philani the Farmer

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From the cabbage and mealies growing around the house, to the side room in the house used as a chicken coop, no space is wasted at Philani’s farm in Noodsberg.  Even within his house, Philani’s love of farming is evident through his many copies of “Farmer’s Weekly” displayed in the living room.  What started out as just an interest in growing green peppers in 2011, has grown to become an incredibly productive farm, including pigs, calves, chickens, and multiple crops.

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Philani wasn’t always a farmer.  Originally a panel beater and mechanic, Philani’s compassionate heart for his community members in difficult circumstances kept him from making much of a profit.

However, once Philani started farming, he found his passion.  Philani credits his success to an extension government officer who taught him how to farm properly.  However, Philani’s own dedication to educating himself about farming practices has paid off over the years, especially when he began to raise pigs.  As the pigs quickly grew in number, Philani finally found himself making an actual profit.

So when CAST introduced the idea of Lions’ Den, where individuals from local communities could present their business plans to a panel of judges to be considered for a loan, Philani was interested.  He found the application process to be easier than normal loans, however he was still nervous about presenting in front of the judges.

The first to present, Philani was well-informed about his area of expertise – pig farming.  He carefully laid out his plan for growing his farm: phasing out his current non-commercial breed pigs, and buying 4 pregnant commercial breed sows.  Every question the judges threw at Philani, he was able to answer with clarity because of his knowledge and experience.

It was no surprise when Philani was chosen to receive the full loan amount of R20,000, except for Philani himself, who humbly did not expect to win.

Philani looks forward to raising the new commercial breed pigs, as there is a higher demand for them.  However, Philani’s focus is not only on making a profit.  His heart for Noodsberg and the surrounding communities is obvious.  Philani regularly gives some of his cabbages to needy families, and provides shoes for some of the children in the community. P1020267 P1020257

While Philani has assisted other farmers by teaching how to farm and providing seed, he believes, “There is still a lot to do to encourage young people to start small businesses.  I believe farming is the future.”

Philani was one of several loan recipients that participated in Lions’ Den.  Moving foward, CAST’s Business Development Department plans to match loan recipients with mentors who can assist them with their businesses.

CAST believes that Lions’ Den is vital to the mission of CAST’s Business Development: to create opportunities for people to find employment, develop businesses and further their careers so as to earn a decent income and provide for their families.  Our heart is to empower individuals like Philani to achieve their dreams and give back to the community.

If mentoring one of the loan recipients sounds like something you’d be interested in, just email Lindelwe at lindelwe@cast.org.za for more information.

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The Lions’ Den

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Have you ever thought of an awesome business idea good enough for the TV show Dragon’s Den?  CAST’s Business Development Programme is starting our very own version of this competition called the “Lions’ Den” where local entrepreneurs from the township can apply to share their business ideas with a local panel who decide whether they are eligible for a loan.

Lindelwe Moyo, CAST’s Business Development Manager, had always thought about using the Dragon’s Den format for the Business Forum.  Last year CAST sent Lindelwe to the Denver Rescue Mission in the US, and he was able to shadow local banks and organisations dealing with micro loans to gain some new ideas.  Then when BEE funding came to the Business Development Programme, Lindelwe knew it was time to put the Lions’ Den into practice.

This is the way Lions’ Den will work:

1.  Introduction of the Idea to Entrepreneurs

This involves watching videos of the TV programme “Dragons’ Den” and giving entrepreneurs the opportunity to ask preliminary questions.

2.  Profiling & Public Voting

Interested applicants complete one page profiles of themselves and their business ideas. Fellow forum members also get a chance to vote for potential candidates. A business must get at least 5 votes or have proper documentation/recommendations to be considered.

3.  Business Bootcamp

Training & practice for entrepreneurs on how to handle interview questions.

4.  Loans Rewarded

Panelists will select 5 – 20 loan/grant recipients from eligible businesses.

5.  Post – Lending

Follow up visits to entrepreneurs (successful and unsuccessful).

After having presented the Lions’ Den to CAST’s business forum participants, many of the entrepreneurs are excited to apply, but some are intimidated by the competitive process.  The Lions’ Den is also open to entrepreneurs who are not already involved with CAST’s Business Forum, which really opens the doors for CAST to impact the greater community by allowing individuals to develop their businesses in order to provide for their families.

As Lindelwe explains, “This is an opportunity for CAST to make its mark.”

If the Lions’ Den interests you, please email Lindelwe at lindelwe@cast.org.za for more information about how you can get involved.