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Rooibos tea meets tech

South Africa’s diversity is mixed into a flavourful premium rooibos cup of tea, and given a boost by technology

Vusi Mokoena,the young entrepreneur from Kayamand in Stellenbosch, knows just the way to satisfy tastes in tea. Having grown up in a family of Rooibos lovers, the young entrepreneur saw an opportunity to start his own strong and flavourful tea, Mavusana Premium Rooibos, made from hand-selected plants.

Vusi says he had seen an opportunity for a stronger Rooibos tea when his family, friends and those around him complained that they did not enjoy the flavour of the tea. This challenged Vusi to embark on research about the South African-grown Aspalathus linearis plant, as well as to consult with a rooibos-making company on ways to create a stronger taste. This forced him to abandon his job at a pharmaceutical company, to focus on his own business.

Says Vusi: “When I finally found the perfect flavour, I decided that the perfect way to stand out was to personalise the tea, one way of doing that was naming the tea after himself, because: A, the name is easy to recognise; and B, it relates to every tribe in South Africa. It means ‘awakening the dream’.”

The one-year-old business supplies its products to guest houses in and around Stellenbosch and has a few small stockists nationwide. In Stellenbosch, it’s available at CoCreate Hub, De Warenmarkt, and the Paul Roos Kwikspar.

The four-team business aims to be South Africa’s go-to tea, as their goals are to build an independent distribution model, empowering South Africans to earn a living in their community, while also focusing on the tourist trade and hospitality industries with their individually wrapped tea bags and gifting boxes. The company can also supply rooibos teabags in bulk to catering companies, hospitals, and restaurants. 

Mavusana Rooibos is currently sold by a handful of independent distributors throughout the country, including Kimberley, Gqerberha, and Johannesburg.  The tea bags retail from R35 to R1,100 on their online store, with delivery available nationwide. However, Vusi and his team want to develop a nationwide independent distribution model with an innovative structure that incentivises distributors to sell.

“This ‘Tupperware model’ will enable us to go direct to the consumer, thereby avoiding the fees involved with retailers,” says Vusi. “At the same time, we will be empowering young entrepreneurs to sell Mavusana Premium Rooibos in their neighbourhood.”

However, like any other business, Vusi’s entrepreneurial journey has not always been an easy one. Some of his challenges included access to capital and proper distribution channels to help them enter different markets, such as the hospitality industry. On the contrary, there have also been many avenues and channels, driven by technology, that have contributed to Vusi’s success.

“Technology plays a vital role in the acceleration process of an entrepreneur. Therefore, as entrepreneurs, when we start businesses, we need to think about the use of technology and incorporate it into our business models. For us, it has enabled us to reach a wider customer base.

“Through technology, we are able to sell and advertise our products digitally. I strongly advise other upcoming entrepreneurs to not shy away from such resources, as it is the future.” 

Vusi believes entrepreneurship is one way of eradicating unemployment in South Africa. He has been engaging with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology to take on a number of students to assist them with work-integrated learning. 

Looking to the future, his goal is to focus on becoming a sustainable business, through innovation that appeals to the South African end-user and working with rooibos farmers to ensure product safety. Other goals include obtaining proper distribution channels and venturing into different flavours of rooibos tea.

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