The drive to produce a product worthy of competing with international brands and her love for her country, is what wakes up Bokang Matlosa every morning.
During the lockdown, Matlosa launched her syrup company Xtract in Maseru, Lesotho, which includes growing strawberries on a 144m² plot of land.
They are used to produce fruit syrups.
“We currently only manufacture syrups, and will later produce concentrates, juices and jams,” she told Vutivi News.
“Our aim is to help reduce the importation of beverages and fruits, increase fruit production and create jobs.”
Other flavours include passion fruit, mixed berries and blueberry, which are currently sourced from local supermarkets.
Matlosa said that the syrups were made by blending fruit with sugar, and then stored in 750ml bottles.
“The syrups can be used for multiple applications like adding flavours to cocktails, ice creams, yoghurt and pastries including others,” she said.
The products are sold to two restaurants and a bottle store in Maseru.
Matlosa believes that service, product and distribution set her apart from other businesses like hers.
“Our syrups are made with natural fruits; making them a healthier alternative to the cordials that are sold in Lesotho,” she explained.
“We tailor-make syrups for consumers that may require syrups that do not contain any artificial ingredients and syrups that have less sugar quantity.”
She said the ordering process was also easier because customers could purchase her products through social media channels such as WhatsApp and Facebook, which were delivered straight to their doors.
Matlosa told Vutivi News she knew nothing about the business when she started it, but that did not stop her from diving into the deep end.
“I had no prior knowledge of the industry and had never made a product before. Finding a mentor helped a lot. She helped guide and advise in areas that I struggled in. In addition to this, I took free online business short courses,” she said.
Matlosa said she used the lockdown to hone her craft, despite several challenges.
“It was difficult to source enough fruits from the local supermarkets. It is for this reason that I resorted to growing my own fruit to make sure that I did not run out of supply.
“Because of the pandemic, the entire hospitality industry was shut down just as I started my business and movement was restricted. This meant that I couldn’t sell my products. However, I used this time to work on perfecting my product recipe,” she said.
Matlosa explained that the lessons she picked up from being a small business owner operating during the lockdown were essential. The pandemic changed how she did business, such as clients ordering online.
“As a small business owner, I have learned the importance of having multiple revenue streams,” she said.
“I also learned that when challenges present themselves to the business, one might need to make the tough decision to change procedures or processes that might not work anymore, change new or alter existing product or even reinvent themselves.”