Up close and personal with Ntsiki Biyela

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Everyone has something to teach you. Don’t ever look down on anyone, even if it’s a cleaner. This is how I’ve been looking at things. I ensure I maintain good relations with anyone I work with, from a company’s CEO to the cleaner.

Is there anything you would have done differently if you could?

Nothing, everything is the way it is supposed to be.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Starting Aslina Wines.

Who has made the biggest contribution to your success so far?

It’s the entire village for me. I don’t think there is one specific person – rather a whole community of people who have crossed my path.

What kind of relationship do you have with other winemakers and what role have they played in your business?

I’ve worked with so many people and built good friendships and relationships with colleagues in the industry. I can just pick up the phone and call them when I need help.

Was it a struggle to secure financing, and do you have any pointers for someone looking for funding?

Yes, it is difficult to access finance when you start a business. My advice to fellow entrepreneurs is never to plan your business around getting funding. Rather plan around what ITAL can do. When I started my business, I had no financing and had to rely on what I could do and the contacts I’d built over time. Some of them I even managed to convince to pay me upfront for the wine I was still going to make.

If you could offer the minister of agriculture some advice, what would it be?

The agro-processing industry is diverse and therefore cannot be treated with the same approach. The wine industry has unique challenges compared with, for example, food processing. If the minister wants to support entrepreneurs, first she needs to consult with them and find out what their challenges are and what the solutions could be.

How important are organised structures in the wine industry to your business?

We have bodies such as Vinpro, which deals mainly with the farmers. This is where we find assistance regarding anything associated with raw materials such as grapes. We also have Wines of South Africa, which deals with marketing, especially overseas. Both have played a significant role in my business.

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