Neo Sekhesa: ‘Our people should not be scared to fail in business because that is common. People who have made in business have failed many times before finally making it.’
Neo knows. She turned her philosophy into a concrete business idea when she couldn’t find a job after graduating from Tshwane University of Technology in South Africa in 2016.
She began by persuing a hobby while she was still at school in 2010 – and that became her product concept. Ms Sekhesa, who is the principal developer, teamed up with two other young professionals, Mkhululi Dlamini and Mohau Mochebelele of Grand Duke Investments to come up with a unique product.
Her initiative was to establish the only locally produced vodka made exclusively from locally available ingredients, today known as Linford Vodka. Named after her late father, the vodka was tested and certified by a South African company in Cape Town which tests most of South African alcoholic spirits.
Launched in December 2017 during the festive season, Linford Vodka promptly caught the attention of many holiday makers finding its way into shopping baskets and quickly becoming the talk of Maseru.
Ms Sekhesa believes the positive consumer response has to do with the fact that Linford Vodka is a unique brand of alcohol since it is produced in Lesotho from wholly locally available inputs. It is also produced by a group of young people who are passionate about making a difference.
While the target market is primarily the local market, they have ambitions of breaking into the international market. The project needs to be upscaled and that will require a huge investment. Their aim to export Linford Vodka would put Lesotho on the map. So many other products from Lesotho are finished elsewhere and come back to Lesotho as finished goods.
Linford Vodka can go into the market as a finished product from Lesotho.
Fully fledged commercial production would also create jobs for many across a wide range of professions. Believing in the bigger picture could provide employment opportunities for many, including young professionals from areas such as food science, finance all the way to marketing.
Learning about the world of business and how to pitch for financing to grow a schoolgirl’s hobby into an international business is the next stage – but with Neo’s indomitable spirit, expect to hear more from this dynamo!
By Bereng Mpaki