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.”
LITTLE KNOWLEDGE OF MANUFACTURING, AGROPROCESSING AND EXPORTING
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.
ACCESS TO FUNDING
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