In the heart of South Africa, where traditional flavors meet innovative sustainability, Phuti Kabasa’s journey with Mopani Queens begins. This extraordinary business is challenging norms, one delicious insect snack at a time.
A Sustainable Start
Mopani Queens is an Edible Insects Agro-processing Company that’s reshaping the snack industry. Its journey started in 2016 when Phuti Kabasa recognized a gap in the accessibility of traditional edible insects, particularly Mopane worms, to urban communities. In addition to this, there was a concerning decline in traditional food practices like entomophagy (the consumption of insects) in South Africa. To address these challenges, Mopani Queens was born.
A Culinary Innovation
One of the most significant challenges Phuti faced in the early stages was product development. She ventured into uncharted territory, adding a modern twist to traditional Mopane worms by introducing spiced and flavored varieties, something unprecedented. The breakthrough came during tasting rounds when Mopani Bites Snacks, now available in Chutney, BBQ, and Peri-Peri flavors, won hearts and taste buds.
Challenges and Milestones
The journey hasn’t been without hurdles. Access to funding has been a persistent challenge. Phuti, like many small business owners, felt the pinch of bootstrapping. However, the commitment to innovation and quality propelled Mopani Queens into the spotlight. The company now boasts an array of ten products, including Mopilaz Tortillas (Tomato flavored) and Mopani Seasoning Spices Range (Umami Seasoning and Sprinkels Herb).
Marketing on a Shoestring
Phuti’s marketing strategy focuses on consistency. Active engagement on social media platforms, collaborations with influencers, and articles like this one have helped build brand visibility. However, she acknowledges that budget constraints have limited their marketing impact, and she’s keen to allocate more resources to this area in the future.
Sustaining the Brand
Mopani Queens recognizes the importance of customer education, especially about the benefits of Mopane caterpillars and edible insects. Negative comments online, often unrelated to their products but concerning entomophagy, are managed by blocking and moving forward. The COVID-19 pandemic posed challenges, but it also pushed them to improve their online presence and e-commerce capabilities.
Community and Partnerships
The company sources Mopane caterpillars directly from collectors, empowering local communities and ensuring the sustainability of their resources. Mopani Queens is also a founding member of EIFASA (Edible Insects Farming Association of Southern Africa), an NPO focused on sustainable insect farming and community support.
Phuti envisions Mopani Queens’ products becoming a staple in South African households. To achieve this, she aims to secure funding for upscaling and expanding into more shops across the country.
Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
Phuti’s advice to budding entrepreneurs is crystal clear: understand the need you’re addressing, communicate your uniqueness, seek guidance, and collaborate rather than compete. She emphasizes learning from mistakes and harnessing the power of AI.
A Sustainable Snacking Revolution
Mopani Queens isn’t just a business; it’s a movement. With a commitment to environmental sustainability, community empowerment, and innovative flavors, Phuti Kabasa and her team are pioneering a snacking revolution. Their journey, marked by challenges and milestones, serves as an inspiring testament to what’s possible when passion meets purpose.
As they embark on their mission to make Mopane worms a household snack, Mopani Queens represents the dynamic spirit of entrepreneurship, one that continuously innovates and reshapes traditions for a better, more sustainable future.