Mbombela — BEHIND the thriving essential oils and pharmaceutical sectors in the Mpumalanga Province and neighbouring countries is an enterprise that actually started as a hobby.
Making the success more unimaginable is the fact that the individual spearheading this growth is a woman from a humble background, who was employed as a security guard for 16 years.
"It all started as a hobby," reminisced Julia Thandeka Shungube (aged 42), the proprietor of Siphandane General Trading.
It is situated in the Mbangwane area in Ehlanzeni District.
The mother of two is involved in the commercial production of Umhlafusha plants (Jatropha curcas).
Established in 2006, inspired by her now-late grandmother, her company is involved in processing the plants to produce castor oils, known for preventing rash and stretch marks, among other benefits.
She supplies her products to various pharmacies around Mpumalanga.
Prominent retail stores are among her clients. Shungube also has agents in Botswana, Mozambique and Swaziland.
"I thought I was just helping my grandmother, who used to do these body oils for us at home when I was young," she reminisced in an interview with CAJ News Africa.
"She told us not to sell the oil. After she passed on, I then realise that I can make extra cash with this knowledge that she passed to me because the salary from the security job was too small," Shungube added.
Shungube has through Siphandane General Trading created employment in her community.
Ten workers are permanently employed and a similar number hired seasonally. Among the employed include is a physical challenged man. Overall, there are 11 women, five youth and four men.
"I love empowering women. That is why I have more female employees than men," Shungube explained.
In addition, her enterprise runs some philanthropic initiatives in the community.
Financial challenges have previously proven a major impediment for the company, but these were eased after the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs to assist with procurement of machinery to grind the Jatropha curcas to oil.
Shungube has won several provincial and national awards- from the first awarded by the departments of Economic Development and Tourism in 2009 and the Sunrise Women Awards in 2018.
She won the Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs Female Entrepreneur award, both at provincial and national level, for 2015.