Growing up, Ntuthuko stayed with his grandparents who had a few cows which were the bedrock of the family finances and each year they sold a cow which payed for his mother’s university education. It was during his childhood that Ntuthuko realised what an important role the cows played in his family and the historical power they held in the African financial system. He saw a gap in the market and he thought of how he could re-invent cattle ownership in a digital age. It was from this realisation that GrassBeef by Livestock Wealth was born.
GrassBeef by Livestock Wealth is a shared farming service that buys, cares for and sells free-range, grass-fed beef. The business purchases young calves from communal farm lands and transports them to their commercial farm, where the animals are cared for and nurtured. They are then resold, but remain at the GrassBeef farm where they are looked after on behalf on their new owners for a small monthly fee.
This farming technique provides a reliable source of income to herdsmen, who are responsible for the cattle’s care and communal farmers, from which the cattle are sourced, while allowing those who don’t have access to land to own their own cattle and produce healthy, organic, hormone free beef. The ownership period of the cow could either be over six, twelve or twenty- four months term with an option to re-invest, this method is very similar to a fixed bank deposit.
“GrassBeef is a short hand name for grass-fed beef. These cows are allowed to grow naturally without the use of artificial growth stimulants. GrassBeef is the ethical alternative to beef production where cattle are sourced from farmers who need a market and then raised in humane facilities until they are ready to market as beef,” shares Ntuthuko.
Last year, at the Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards, Ntuthuko was the overall winner for the Social Innovation Award and won R1.3 million to further develop his business. He shares that when he was announced as the winner, he was overwhelmed with excitement and could not believe that it was his name that had just been announced.
“I think the pictures tell the story better. I waved the award in the air oblivious to the lighting fixture directly above me. It made a lovely chiming sound as I screamed for joy in the moment. Luckily nothing broke, but had anything broke I would have been able to pay it from my winnings”, says Ntuthuko as he reminisces about the moment.
Looking back on his journey and how he started his business, Ntuthuko shares that he can only feel a sense of pride and joy when he looks at how much his business has grown. “I sometimes just stand in the farms and look at the cattle roaming around, and I can’t believe that it is all me”, he says. He further explains he believes that the SAB Foundation played a major role in the growth of his business. “I don’t think I would be where I am now, if it wasn’t for the funding and business support I received from the foundation. Before the programme I had 600 cows under management, I now have 1 600 cows within twelve months” he explains.
Ntuthuko further shares that the SAB Foundation not only assisted with funding but it also helped shape him as an entrepreneur. He claims to have a better understanding of how to handle his business administration and how to persevere through the most difficult times in business. He explains that he is forever grateful to the SAB Foundation for making him part of the family. Through the workshops he attended, he was able to learn more about setting processes and procedures in place, something he was never really good at before.
With the funding, he received from the Social Innovation Awards Ntuthuko bought a new cattle truck which has assisted enormously with transporting the cows and saved him a lot of time and money. He also hired more staff members including an in – house development team which has assisted in developing web platforms. Previously he had to outsource these services at a great expense to the business. Prior to winning the award he only had six employees however, he now has 17 people providing a valuable share of income within his community.
He admits that it has taken time for his business to grow but he is glad he never gave up on himself and his dream. He advises anyone who has a dream of starting their own business to find their passion and follow it in order to start a successful business. “Finding your passion means finding a societal problem that makes you want to address and make you with itch with resolving it. That itch is the fuel that will drive you until your business becomes profitable and beyond” says Ntuthuko.
In conclusion, Ntuthuko shares that he has bigger plans for his business and he is currently working very hard to achieve them, in three – five years’ time, Ntuthuko envisions his business to have expanded into at least 10 African countries and managing 100 000 cows.