Buhlebenkosi Ostlea Nyathi is the CEO of Competitive Brand Shapers(CBS) , Zimbabwe, a holding company of three divisions, manufacturing ,dairy, and International distribution and procurement. She started business at the age of 20 hunting and gathering mopane worms and through perseverance she grew from distributing and supplying of assorted grocery-ware to supermarkets to a manufacturer of dairy products. Her company, CBS produces the famous Izankefu / Hodzeko ; traditional naturally fermented milk and also has food manufacturing plant. CBS has 12 product lines and Buhlebenkosi is the first female player in dairy processing in her country. She is the co-founder and vice President of Organization of Women in International Trade, a member of Zimbabwe Dairy Processors Association and the Eastern and Southern African Dairy Association
Buhlebenkosi speaks exclusively to Sunday Oyinloye, Publisher, Green Savannah Diplomatic Cable
You started business at the age of 20, what was the motivation?
I was motivated by the desire to achieve and passion to make it to my dreams. I had a dream growing up to become emancipated financially, independent and prosperous. l have always had and continue to have a deliberate intention to become rich.
What were the initial challenges?
Capital, lack of support and lack of knowledge were the initial challenges
At what stage did you go into manufacturing?
The day l realized l was going nowhere depending on other people’s lines to build a kingdom of my own. I felt so unsecure and this was when the economy took a nose dive into an inflation status that shut the door on viability of imports.
You have a holding company of three divisions, would you like to talk on each of them?
CBS Dairy processes raw milk into the prime line Izankefu, a naturally fermented milk and uses the byproducts to produce butter, colored maputi and toy drink. We literally throw away nothing in the dairy. All our lines are intertwined and born from the processes of the other. All milk that does not meet the specifications of the natural brew is homogenized and processed into a cultured milk sachet and soon to become yoghurt. CBS manufacturing does all nondairy food processing, colored maputi and Toy drink. We recently finished building our kitchen next to the dairy and we process freeze and pack all the hard to cook African delicacies. CBS distribution imports and exports all raw material requirements for the factory and sells all excess to other players in the food industry to cut down overheads and stabilize the pricing policy to some extent. Very soon this division will be sending Izankefu to beyond our borders.
How were you able to expand your business to such a level that you now have 12 lines of production?
I ceased any opportunity to make an extra buck. I was not choosy or fussy, as long as the means to making the money didn’t defile my values that are founded on the principles of God. I found opportunities in gaps and challenges l spotted around me. I started by hunting and gathering mopane worm (a very dirty and sometimes hurtful job), to buying and selling fish and cement. I was also involved in cross boarder trading where l grew from catching buses and trucks to driving my own trucks.
What are the challenges facing the manufacturing sector in Zimbabwe?
Most raw materials are imported. That is a challenge. Inadequate forex can also pose a great threat, though the Reserve Bank may be trying
Your product, Izankefu is a market leader, what is the secret?
We serve it naturally without defying all public health and food safety requirements, and we bring up the nostalgia that comes with this delicacy when done right. We keep it natural and organic. Izankefu is a market leader because it is unique and continues to answer to the requirements of the market better than the rest.
Where do you want to see Competitive Brand Shapers in the next few years?
I want to see CBS on the Stock Exchange and having my products on shelves of retailers worldwide.