An award-winning farmer in the poultry industry, and now a successful and fast-expanding bee-keeping entrepreneur with a vision to empower and heal women who have survived gender-based violence, Mems Ramaila has achieved considerable success for more than a decade.
The anchor enterprise of her bee-keeping enterprise, Bee African, is in Brits. She has three additional bee-keeping sites in Gauteng and is currently preparing to set up another beekeeping site in Marikana. “We all know what happened in Marikana in 2012. Bees have healing properties and I believe that through these projects I can contribute to help heal the community of Marikana,” she says.
Mems is one of the keynote-speakers at a webinar hosted by 1000 Women Trust’s 1000 Women Restart campaign in collaboration with Pick ‘n Pay on 18th August, about Investing in women.
The other two webinars are about Growing self-confidence – 11th August – and Women Empowerment (25th August).
Mems was born and bred in Soweto, and the family moved to Rustenburg when she was eight.
She learned much of her entrepreneurial skill from her late mother, Ethel, who was a successful businesswoman. “It is very clear that I got to where I am as a result of exposure to my mother’s business,” she says.
Upon completion of her Matric, she did her undergraduate-studies at the University of Limpopo, and also completed several post graduate studies.
“I ventured into farming in 2010 and my first step was in the poultry industry, and two years later the North West government recognized my efforts for creating employment for rural women in Mabeskraal, Rustenburg by awarding me the prestigious Female Framer of the Year Award.
In 2015, “Government offered me a bigger farm in Brits, where I grow lucerne (animal feed) and one morning I discovered a colony of bees bees in my lucerne field. Curious about this, I did extensive research about pollination and the bees. I subsequently conceptualized the bee farming-business.
“Through these projects I hope to contribute to the economic empowerment of women.
“I currently also have a training program for community-based bee-keepers.”
Mems says people who want to start and restart businesses, must be aware of how to conserve natural resources.
“We must be conscious of what natural resources mean to us. It is about co-existing with other natural resources. One example is the healing properties of bees, as honey has medicinal and nutritional properties. Honey is also anti-bacterial and anti-oxidants. We have added garlic and ginger to raw honey and thereby harnessing the medicinal properties of both raw honey and garlic/ginger as an immune booster against viral infections,” she said.
“We want to invite people to grow their own food in their backyards and to keep bees in their backyard as well so that they can protect themselves against poverty. We must become more conscious of the symbiotic relationships between humans and other kingdoms – like the bee kingdom.
Asked what she learned as an entrepreneur from her late mother, Mems said humility is pivotal. Business is about relations – customer and client relations – and you need to be in good standing with other people.
“Secondly, you need to continuously enhance your knowledge – learn various aspects of business such as human resources, finance, arts and craft, and of late digital skills.
“Thirdly you need to have faith in God and lastly, you have to display resilience as a business person.”
Mems says one of her strategic goals is to enlist 1000 women beekeepers by 2025 for income generation.
The second is to own a healing village for survivors of gender-based violence where they can learn skills and be restored.
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.