By Keletso Mkhwanazi
Her passion for gin and the gin-making process inspired a 49-year-old woman from Mpumalanga to create and brew her own gin. Portia Nonkumbulo Lukhele, originally from Elukwatini but now living in Emalahleni, is the founder of Skomville 1192 Gin, which is located in Nhlazatshe and known as Skomville. It is where the business began. She started the process in early 2022, but the gin was introduced to the market in September of this year.
Lukhele faced delays in getting bottles on time because the one she wanted was unavailable in the country and she had to import them. Also, a strike at a harbour led to further delays as the ingredients needed for the gin were difficult to come by. Her menu developer struggled to understand her vision, but eventually, the concept was developed. “Each spice used represents a character of Skomville, such as black pepper, a versatile spice used in cooking and salads, and the spirit of Ubuntu on the bottle label. Eventually, it all came together,” she told Vutivi News.
Her current challenges are marketing and convincing people who are loyal to a specific brand to try something new. But she believes that the gin will slowly but surely gain market access as it is produced by an independent distillery. Lukhele studied electrical engineering and worked as an engineering planner at Sasol before resigning to establish her own firm. “I don’t have employees now because I’m still in the early phases of my business, but I intend to provide job possibilities as I grow. “My short-term goal is to expand Skomville gin to all corners of South Africa and the masses, while the long-term goal is to create employment by one day owning my distillery,” she said.
Lukhele said that in a month, she had succeeded in convincing seven Spars across the country to sell her gin. “To succeed, you must remain committed, seize opportunities, and, above all, surround yourself with like-minded individuals; if at all possible, allow them to serve as mentors. If you’re prepared to put in the effort and have a positive mindset, nothing is impossible.”
Luckhele is also involved in the Lift As You Rise campaign, which is designed to help people who have business ideas but lack the necessary funding. “For instance, I could invest R30,000 in a business, and in return, that business would invest the same amount in another business. The amount need not match, but the idea is that you will invest in another up-and-coming business once yours succeeds, and it keeps going like that, like a chain, so we all help each other rise,” she said.
The campaign is planning a football and netball competition for December 15–17, during which it will provide food parcels to underprivileged families and help local children. Lukhele said one of her greatest desires was to show residents of Skomville that even though their town was small, they could make it in life and compete with big brands.