Mavis Nduchwa is the CEO of Chabana Farms, a Botswana-based agribusiness company and owner of the Kalahari Honey brand.
1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.
The toughest situation I faced whilst establishing Kalahari Honey was convincing the community where we set up our beehives that the tiny insects were actually a solution to the terror they faced from nature’s giants, the elephants. Changing the mindsets of the people to believe that setting up beehives around the ploughing fields can mitigate damage to their fields and cause the elephants to take different routes was a daunting task. After losing crops for decades due to elephants, conservation was not an easy gospel to preach.
To overcome this challenge I had to settle within the community appreciate their views whilst also demonstrating and being practical about the solution of the beehives.
2. What business achievement are you most proud of?
I am proud of the fact that the solution to the farmers resulted in a business with a byproduct that is now appreciated from Windhoek to Seattle. My primary focus was resolving the conflict between elephants and the farmers. Sooner than we thought, we had different versions of raw organic honey and subsequently the honey wine. [We have] this unique business model where one has a rural farmer in Botswana and a New Yorker simultaneously benefiting from Kalahari Honey wine.
3. Tell us about your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.
My greatest weakness as a leader is my incessant need to be present at every stage and process of the business. I feel the need quite often to lead by example to demonstrate and show the team what needs to be done, be it at the hives in the north of the country, at packaging plant in the south of Botswana and even the processing factory in Seattle. This trait is my weakness in the sense that I become overwhelmed and I am constantly busy.
To overcome this challenge I have to look for team members who possess similar traits as mine, people who are autonomous. I realised that I cannot do everything nor can I be in different places at the same time.
4. What popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?
Follow your heart: It’s not always the case. I say trends will lead you where you need to be as an entrepreneur.
5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you started?
Entrepreneurship is a journey filled with stumbling blocks. It can be likened to a maze. You know where to start, you see the finish but the path from start to end is a process. A process of shedding old habits, developing existing skills and becoming aware of that which is innate and somewhat dormant within yourself.
Then again, life is unpredictable and I guess that is entrepreneurship. If I had known that mentors were available and willing to help startups I would have started there.