I never gave up, SA’s decorated black female commercial farmer tells women at webinar

When Anna Phosa bought four pigs for R1000 in 2004 and secured the land of a small holding through family savings, she knew nothing about farming. She bravely entered a male-dominated industry where many doors were shut in her face, but kept on dreaming and persisted. In 2016, she secured a multi-million deal with Pick ‘n Pay to provide 350 pigs per week to them and became one of South Africa’s most celebrated agricultural farmers.

The award-winning Phosa spoke at the first webinar of 1000 Women Trust in collaboration with Pick ‘n Pay on the topic of self-confidence as part of a series of three webinars to kick-start the 1000 Women Restart-initiative. The first webinar was fully booked, with more than 150 women attending.

How did the only black female commercial farmer in South Africa become so successful?

Phosa said she never gave up, while one of the other keys to her success had been the successful networking with Pick ‘n Pay.

“I started to provide Pick ‘n Pay with ten pigs per week in 2008, and it grew to 350 pigs per week. I was a woman that was pushing for success and I never took no for an answer. I was given a platform to express myself, and Pick ‘n Pay supplied business development training.

“There was no way I could fail. It takes a village to bring up a child. And in my case it was the whole village (the business support from Pick ‘n Pay and the department of agriculture) that took me from scratch to where I am today. Pick ‘n Pay stayed with me through the tough times,” Phosa said.

“In a male dominated industry, many males gave me sound advice and contributed to where I am today.

“Suzenne Ackerman (director of Pick ‘n Pay and ambassador of 1000 Women Trust) was a mentor and when I felt down and wanted to withdraw, she encouraged me to go for it and asked how she could help.

“If women ask me what they can do to start over or start a business, I will tell them to start by acquiring knowledge, while networking with people in the industry who are knowledgeable. Start small, and get to know your product.

“I succeeded in business through resilience, hard work, through prayers from other women, through mentorship and through good communication, while you also need people that can catch you when you fall,” she said.

She said she was also inspired by the openness and work-ethic of the Ackerman-family.

Suzanne Ackerman was always very accommodating and willing to meet with her even despite her hectic schedule as a director of Pick ‘n Pay.

She was inspired to see that Wendy Ackerman and her husband, Raymond, still worked. “That energized me.

“We need to reach out to like-minded people in the industry,” she added.

“You cannot walk alone in the life of entrepreneurship. It is cold up there without friends,” Phosa said.

She said she made many mistakes during her life as a farmer. One was to allow people into her industry without a legal contract, and then realized they were trying to bully her despite the fact that she was the owner of the business.

Tina Thiart, trustee and founder member of 1000 Women 1 Voice, said the 500 days since the lockdown (due to the COVID 19-pandemic) started, had impacted women adversely. About 84 % of South African women who suffered gender-based violence did not report it, while more than two million women lost their jobs during the lockdown.

“As 1000 Women Trust, we decided to do something about economic empowerment of women through the 1000 Women Restart-initiative – to motivate, support and connect women – so that they could start income-generating projects or start or restart businesses.

“Wendy Ackerman, trustee of 1000 Women 1 Voice, shared some tips with me today just before the webinar started. The first is that every women should find an industry network – where we can connect with partners that speak to the industry in which we find ourselves.

“We must also quiet down the inner voice – that voice that says that we are not good enough.

“Another tip from Mrs Ackerman is that we must broaden our knowledge and share it with other people.

“And lastly; we must always think positively,” said Thiart.

Ackeman was the first female director or a retail chain in South Africa and played a pivotal role in growing it from the four stores it initially had to the almost 2000 stores in 2021.

On 6th August, Ackerman (sr) received the Forbes Lifetime Achievement Award – one of the highlights of her long business career which stretched back to 1967 when she joined Pick ‘n Pay.

People who attended the first installment of the August-webinars of 1000 Women Trust and Pick ‘n Pay and require industry mentors and want to start or restart a business or improve their employability can WhatsApp-call 073-2079079.

Please visit the 1000 Women website on 1000women.co.za.

The themes of the rest of the August-webinars are: Investing in women (18th August) and Women Empowerment (25th August).

Women who want to join the 1000 Women Restart initiative, can do it for free by registering for the August-webinars. People who want to join the August-webinars, can register on https://www.webtickets.co.za/v2/Event.aspx?itemid=1507470118.