A business that is the brainchild of Eiren Drake and his grandfather is now proudly supplying retail chain Shoprite across the country with canned chicken feet and necks. Tin Stuff is a company based in Tzaneen in Limpopo, and was founded by Drake and his grandfather, Spencer, who has since passed on. The company’s product was launched in 2020, although the Drakes started working on the products in 2017 when they constructed a canning plant.
The company’s factory employs 35 people per shift, and Drake believes this number could rise to 60 if demand for is canned goods increases. Drake, 26, was introduced to the dish by several of his friends as a young child while growing up in rural Limpopo. Today, those friends are considered by Drake as integral employees of the company.
“As a young boy, I spent a significant amount of time with my late grandfather’s employees, whose children were my friends and playmates. It was then that I was first introduced to the widely-loved and consumed dish of chicken feet, which very quickly became one of my favourite meals,” he said. “I spent a lot of time learning more and more about the dominant food and the cultures that I grew up around, but I also became aware of how many struggled to access good quality protein.
“Our solution was to can chicken necks and feet, which are sometimes called walkie-talkies.” Drake also noted that the very friends who introduced him to the dish were behind the company’s innovation to develop a new product concept, as well as the inspiration to launch the product. But it has not always been smooth sailing, especially with the loss of his grandfather in 2020.
“The unexpected passing of my business partner, investor, life coach, mentor, and beloved grandfather was, and has since been, by far the most difficult challenges that I’ve had to mitigate,” Drake said. But he continued with his hard work and fortune smiled on the young Drake, as he was approached by the Shoprite Group.
He signed a three-year exclusive deal to supply the retailer nationwide. Drake pointed out that Shoprite has had a huge impact on his small business. “As a small business owner and my very first engagement with formal retail in the corporate space, it has been an absolute honour and a great privilege to work under the guidance of the Shoprite team,” he said.