The Valley Mushrooms premises overlooks the best of KZN, and is a calming, tranquil space. It was founded by Ugan Pillay, who has always loved the taste of mushrooms, and saw a need in the market for the exotic kind.
He began his research on how to produce the best oyster mushrooms and visited the likes of Thailand to realise the best techniques. Before starting the business in 2013, he was a Project Manager in the I.T sector living in Johannesburg. Much has changed since then, and he says with conviction that it would not have been possible without the funding and mentorship from the SAB Foundation. He formed this relationship in 2015 after a work colleague forwarded him an email with the entry details.
He is in awe of the recognition and has used the money to grow the business. The funds enabled the purchase of racking for the bags, and has allowed for an increase in volume produced. Ugan was able to employ more staff and use his idea to uplift the community – a component he feels most strongly about.
Customers find the business easily, and he is currently suppling to many private clients as well as Spar, Checkers, Oxford Fresh Market and other fresh market mushroom broker within a 20 km radius of the farm.
In terms of challenges, obtaining quality spawn and keeping up with orders are on top of the list. In future, he would like to develop a great marketing plan and become the “Denny of exotic mushrooms”. The biggest success, he says, is having got the business to where it is today. He can’t wait to see what the future holds.