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or chicken do, but rather duck, rab­bit and game.

“We have a lot of that in South Africa. The con­ser­va­tion rules here force peo­ple to treat an­i­mals fairly, and con­sumers love that story that these an­i­mals lived a fair life and they weren’t overly har­vested for the pur­poses of food.”

The prod­ucts are meat-based snacks that are given to pets as treats. The sec­ond cat­e­gory of prod­ucts are oc­cu­piers, which keep a pet busy or en­ter­tained.

Dlamini says the mar­ket for such prod­ucts in the US alone is mas­sive as more and more peo­ple mi­grate to­wards high-end nu­tri­tious treats.

“The to­tal pet treat and food mar­ket in the US is worth about $22 bil­lion (R283 bil­lion) and more and more of that is mov­ing into the premium seg­ment. The rea­son for that is there are more Amer­i­can fam­i­lies with dogs than there are Amer­i­can fam­i­lies with chil­dren.

“Peo­ple are in­creas­ingly see­ing their pet as their child and treat­ing them as such, and you see that be­ing played out in their spend­ing pat­terns.”

Of the 30 em­ploy­ees, 22 are gen­eral work­ers and half of the em­ploy­ment force is fe­male. It is 62.5% black youthowned, and has an 82.5% over­all black own­er­ship.

Be­fore ap­proach­ing the IDC, Dlamini first dis­cussed the idea with the Awethu Project, a busi­ness in­cu­ba­tor and seed cap­i­tal fi­nancier that pro­vided him with work­ing cap­i­tal that en­abled him to meet po­ten­tial sup­pli­ers, re­search recipes and test the mar­ket.

By the time he ap­proached the IDC, he had tech­ni­cal sup­port part­ners who helped with set­ting up the busi­ness and de­vel­op­ing prod­uct sam­ples. He also had an off­take agree­ment with a US whole­saler in­ter­ested in stock­ing the prod­uct.

He rec­om­mends this path to en­trepreneurs who have ideas, but no money to turn them into bank­able busi­nesses.

“Work with a small in­cu­ba­tor first to get to a point where you have a bank­able project be­fore ap­proach­ing the IDC. It’s dif­fi­cult to go from the streets or a cor­po­rate job to hav­ing a fully bank­able project that the IDC will look at with a lot of ap­petite. Phase your fun­ders.”


When he left McKin­sey, Dlamini did not know how to de­sign and set up a fac­tory, the process of ac­quir­ing raw ma­te­ri­als, ex­port­ing prod­ucts and ac­cess­ing mar­kets. For all those crit­i­cal things around the fac­tory, he part­nered with tech­ni­cal ex­perts who un­der­stood these pro­cesses and the in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment re­quired. They were able to re­as­sure the IDC with their in-depth knowl­edge and tech­ni­cal know-how across the value chain.


Although he had saved up a bit while work­ing, this would only cover the ini­tial re­search and some monthly ex­penses. Dlamini needed ac­cess to huge amounts of cap­i­tal to do the full re­search and de­vel­op­ment, cre­ate net­works, part­ner with tech­ni­cal per­son­nel, set up the fac­tory and all its tech­ni­cal ma­chin­ery, em­ploy staff, cre­ate the prod­ucts, and source ex­port clients. That is where the Aweuthu Project and, later, the IDC came in to as­sist.


The fac­tory is now ready to pack­age its fi­nal prod­ucts and ex­port to clients overseas. But the pack­ag­ing they’ve cho­sen, which was de­signed in China, is still be­ing as­sessed by US reg­u­la­tors who have their own strin­gent la­belling re­quire­ments. Maneli Pets is also wait­ing for a full ex­port li­cence here in South Africa. Reg­u­la­tions re­quire that a fac­tory must be fully op­er­a­tional be­fore an ex­port li­cence can be granted. They have now se­cured one li­cence and are hop­ing to re­ceive the fi­nal ex­port li­cence in the next two weeks.

FLESH START Raw os­trich, croc­o­dile and other game cuts are used to make pet treats Nh­lanhla Dlamini

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