An interview with the founder of Siwela Wines, Siwela Masoga

Founder of Siwela Wines, Siwela Masoga is the youngest wine maker with her brand in Africa. She is also the youngest entrepreneur at the recent South Africa and Cameroon Trade and Invest Seminar in Douala, Cameroon. She talks to us about her career, business and challenges along the way.

Tenacity Magazine: Please kindly tell us who is Siwela Masoga?

Siwela Masoga: I am a 29 year old female born and raised at Rekhutjitje village in Limpopo province. I am the second child in the family of 3, but we are now 2 since I have lost a brother who was the first born and I am a mother to a beautiful daughter. I completed matric at Rekhutjitje High School and I obtained a national diploma in biotechnology at Cape Peninsula University of Technology. We were raised by a single parent who is an educator and education has always been a priority in our family. My mother always encouraged us to dream big and to be independent.

Tenacity Magazine: How was your transition from school/work to business?

Siwela Masoga: I majored in fermentation and developed a keen interest for wine making. I got an internship at Waterstone wine in Stellenbosch and this opportunity exposed me to the vineyards practices, cellar environment, bottling and packaging of wine. My first job was at Distell, one of the biggest wine and spirit producers in the world. The job provided me with the necessary skills, in-depth knowledge of the industry and I learned about the quality aspect of wine and spirits. I also continued studying at the Cape Wine Academy to attain the Cape Wine Master qualification.

Tenacity Magazine: How did you get into the wine business?

Siwela Masoga: The experience and knowledge I gained from Distell and my studies inspired me to go into business. Initially I had no interest or that natural inclination for business. The desire to start Siwela Wines was driven by my passion for the industry and relationships with the stakeholders. We began by outsourcing the facilities needed to produce wine with the support of the network I have and grew from there.

Tenacity Magazine: What inspired you to start your own wine brand (how did you turn your passion for wine into a career)?

Siwela Masoga: I wanted to have my own winery, but this required a lot of capital and often takes years to achieve. The best way to start was to create my own brand using my understanding of the industry dynamics. I wanted to make use of the amazing resources (grapes) that our country has to offer and inspire other young South African to be active in the wine industry. The education, skills and knowledge I have within the industry also played a huge role towards building my brand.

Tenacity Magazine: Did you encounter any challenges like lack of resources (finance, machinery, etc) barriers of entry into the industry and the likes?

Siwela Masoga: The wine industry is one of the most challenging businesses to go into as it requires a lot of capital and it is highly competitive. Lack of access to funding is my main challenge. I am unable to get assistance from government agencies because the business is categorized as alcohol. This is one of the major disadvantage for young Black Entrepreneurs in the industry. I do not have access to any kind of funding from the private sector either. There are serious barriers to entry into the distribution and marketing channels where growth is.

Tenacity Magazine: How did you overcome the challenges thus far?

Siwela Masoga: I minimized the costs of production by outsourcing, self-funded the business from my savings and access to a business loan. I reinvested profits back into the business for the past two years to grow and hire people to work for me.

Tenacity Magazine: What are your aspirations, aims and objectives of your brand (Siwela wines)?

Siwela Masoga: I want to build a strong, sustainable brand both local and internationally. I also want to own my own wine farm to be able to control the value chain. My ultimate goal is to create employment and a platform for young people to be part of this industry.

Tenacity Magazine: In the world of wine, who do you most admire and why? Who influenced you?

Siwela Masoga: Gary Vaynerchuck, a successful Belarusian American who expanded his family wine business by selling wine online.

Tenacity Magazine: What is one of the hardest things about winemaking?

Siwela Masoga: The hardest thing about making wine is finding the right grapes to produce a good wine and making sure that your product is competitive.

Tenacity Magazine: What makes Siwela Wines unique from other wine brands?

Siwela Masoga: Siwela Wines is more than just a bottle of wine. Our wine is produced from quality grapes sourced in the Stellenbosch. The region is synonymous with producing great quality wines for decades. The entire range of wines is premium and produced to suit the palate of our target market. We are not only about making wines, but we educate to empower our customers about the product. We also make sure that we provide excellent service and provide an unforgettable experience.

Tenacity Magazine: What are your achievements since the inception of your brand?

Siwela Masoga: Siwela Wines is currently available in almost all provinces in South Africa and our clients are from all over the country. We were able to sell over 5000 units within a few months and the company employed five (5) young people.

Tenacity Magazine: What plans do you have for your brand and business?

Siwela Masoga: We are taking the brand to Cameroon on a trade mission to explore potential market and introduce the brand to the rest of Africa. We are also extending the brand locally to ensure that we are able to cater to each and every customer’s needs.

Tenacity Magazine: Any wine making tips for those who are just getting into winemaking or those interested to start business?

Siwela Masoga: The wine industry, like any other business, is challenging and my advice is for anyone to do proper research and be prepared to work. An entrepreneur must have passion and patience to grow the business gradually. It takes a lot work and time before the business starts to perform well.

Tenacity Magazine: What would you do if you are the Minister of Small Business in South Africa?

Siwela Masoga: I would make access to funding and technical resources a priority for SMMEs because of their potential to create employment.

Tenacity Magazine: How do people get hold of you when they want your product?

Siwela Masoga: They can simply visit my website for more information and they can also follow me on social media platforms: Twitter @SiwelaWines, Facebook: Siwela wines.

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