BBL PARTICIPANT: Maria Seemise, Maubane Community, Northwest Province
In a Nutshell
Through her participation in SocioTech’s Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) strategies to stimulate personal economic activity, Maria Seemise from Maubane Community in Northwest Province has changed her perception of herself and sharpened her business skills. She has become confident about the profitability of her diverse businesses, and continues to encourage many others to be proud of their successful self-employment strategies.
I grew up in Ngobi village which is very remote and rural. As children we made all our own games – for instance I remember we used to pick and dry these wild red berries that we called mokgombata. They were so sweet. You could put them in a bottle, crush them with a stick, mix them with a little water and then use that same stick to dip and enjoy the lovely, sweet tasting mixture. It was like pudding straight from the veld.
My father made zinc containers and my mother had a vegetable patch which, along with wild morogo that we collected from the fields, fed our family. She also had a business buying fruit and vegetables from commercial farmers and reselling by going house to house. On the weekends, she would send us children to neighbouring villages to sell there. She would give us the 5 cents bus fare and we would go door-to-door selling. I remember we sold a bag of 3 tomatoes for 25 cents. We used to enjoy those trips. Mother would tell us how much money we could spend on food, and we would buy bread and achaar and eat it in the shade of a tree when we got hungry. I also took fruit to school to sell. I remember, when I was in primary school, we used to get a bus to Warmbad and then buy oranges from the farmers there. We would put the bags of oranges on our heads and walk (sometimes as much as 2 hours) back to the bus stop.
"....but throughout those years I also had a side hustle selling snacks on the commuter bus."
I was married for 16 years but the relationship was abusive so in 2014, my children and I walked away from that life. I bought a stand here in Maubane and made a new start. I worked as a domestic worker in Pretoria for many years, but throughout those years I also had a side hustle selling snacks on the commuter bus. I would sell to my fellow passengers on my way to work and again on the way home. I am proud to say that my business endeavours allowed me to pay school fees. My 21-year-old daughter (who is at TUT doing internal auditing) has an NF bursary but my 33-year-old son trained as a civil engineer thanks to the funds generated by selling on the bus for all those years.
In 2019, I had saved enough money to start a fish and chip shop in town and everything was going really well until COVID came. The business was too new to survive lockdown and it collapsed. That was a very bad time, but I picked myself up. Now I sell scones, vetkoek, sweets and peanuts and other snacks. I have a stall under a tree opposite the clinic and all those people coming and going buy from me.
I met the people from SocioTech and Sukuma in 2022. From the first time I met them, I liked their way of working. I am a born-again Christian, so I enjoyed the way that they promoted a relationship with God. I brought my wheelbarrow full of snacks to every training session because I could see that this was not just a way of learning new skills but also a business opportunity. My fellow participants bought from me during our classes.
"...but also a business opportunity."
"Now I can see which lines are doing well and which are not so strong. I can see how much is coming in and going out. "
I participated in the farming training and started a garden. It went well, but sadly we now have a problem with water on this side of town and the garden is not thriving. My problem with water is holding me back on the agriculture side, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t support this! I have introduced many other people to that side of SocioTech. For people who have water – they can benefit so much.
SocioTech’s MyBusiness training has helped me a lot. You can see from my story that I had a lot of experience selling, but before SocioTech I wasn’t keeping records. Learning to do that has been a big help. Now I can see which lines are doing well and which are not so strong. I can see how much is coming in and going out. I use my peanut sales as the backbone of the business – that is what I invest back in. The chippies and sweets – those are what my children and I use to fund our daily life.
More than anything, SocioTech has changed the way I see myself and my business projects. I have learnt to be proud of what I am doing and that I can go far with these methods. I used to feel ashamed and not confident in my way of life, but I know now that if people try to undermine what I do by saying ‘you don’t have a job’ I can say ‘so what? I am working here for myself’.