Aulyn Makoni, Founder and CEO of Nekta Honey and Organics

Apr 17, 2024
Aulyn Makoni, Founder and CEO of Nekta Honey and Organics

Please tell us your name, where your business is located and what is it that you do?

Hello, my name is Aulyn Makoni, and I am a self-made young businesswoman, a bee farmer, a honey producer, and an apiary consultant. As the Founder and CEO of Nekta Honey and Organics Pvt(ltd), I oversee our main sales offices located in Harare's 12th-floor construction house. We have successfully established apiaries in all provinces and have representatives nationwide. Our services are hybrid, allowingus to be flexibly mobile. We are on the verge of expanding our operations to South Africa and Zambia, a testament to our ambition and the potential of our business.

Tell us about how you got started.

By 2020, when restrictions began to tighten, I had been hardly surviving on hairdressing to pay for my fees and rentals while at Chinhoyi University, and I was in my second year then. From March 2020 until May 2020, I was in the village doing gardens and teaching extra lessons to prospective candidates, but I was not satisfied. I was earning very little and could not be enough for anything. I was investing so much time making traditional beehives to kill time, and that is when people began to speculate different home remedies for treating COVID-19. Among them, honey was constantly mentioned. And that is how the idea of producing honey as a business struck me.

I had to leave the village to pursue the project at school. After months of presenting my project proposal, the university finally gave me a portion to set up beehives at the university farm. It was tough to start with no capital. The school had only given me access to accommodation and food because I had convinced them that I could get capital, but I didn’t have anything to start with. I spent quite some time at the workshop, taught by carpenters how to run machines and carve out measurements from scrap material, old-school furniture, and desks. It was arduous work, but I had a point to prove.

Meanwhile, I had a deal with the workers at the farm that if they found bees while herding cattle, I would give them all the honey and carry the bees. And this is how my first five beehives were set up and the project kickstarted. It wasn’t easy or comfortable. Being on the Student Representative council then, it was embarrassing for students and peers to see me pacing up and down the campus in a dirty work suit instead of a two-piece suit. Nothing made sense. A lot of discouragement and stigma surrounded me. I didn’t have protective clothing; hence, I had taught myself to deal with different swarms of bees, and I wasn’t spared from numerous superstitious questions.

Eventually, the first harvest came, and I sold my small spoil to the canteen and staff members. I then sent a plea for other incapacitated students to join the project to raise money for school fees. This was one project that could not be affected by the COVID restrictions as it needed minimum supervision. At that point, we opened the project to other students struggling to raise fees. I had more confidence, and even the people around me became supportive. What followed was an internship at Hurungwe Rural District Council in 2021, where I was working as a marketing intern.

An opportunity arose for facilitating community projects in all 26 wards. I had the privilege of traveling across all those wards and marginalized villages to train a minimum of 500 bee farmers. The council was pursuing biological fencing against ravaging elephants, and beekeeping was the perfect alternative to promote non-consumptive tourism and uninterrupted harvests for the villagers. The honey from the bee fences would suffice for extra income and capacitation. The training came with its challenges.

Being young and, most of all, being female was my greatest obstacle; I would be judged before I started to speak. During those days, the rumor spread like fire .... There is a queen of bees at the council. Calls began to come in requesting bee removals and consultancies. And that is how my professional journey began. After the attachment concluded, it was time for me to become progressive, so we introduced zero termination bee removals, bee transportation, consultancy, and training on top of honey sales. Eventually, I was invited to radio interviews, and the documentary by the Kwayedza Newspaper trended a lot on social media and placed me on the international map in August 2022.

Building on this fame, we launched one of our most significant milestones yet: Everyone Should Be a Beekeeper. This initiative initially targeted the urban areas and eventually spread to marginalized communities. The initiative was aimed at educating consumers of honey and introducing non termination bee removals in the city. For people who had adequate space, they considered keeping the bees that would have been removed from their ceilings and drains. The initiative also aimed at educating people about the importance of apiculture in the wake of climate change and the various benefits that could be reaped from harvesting bees. To date, I have appeared on international platforms to talk about our research on the preservation of bees and the future of sustainable revenue production in the wake of climate change. We have also progressed to different product lines and await approval from SAZ and CCZ. Among these products, we have been researching to make affordable skin-sensitive products for people living with albinism, a project for which we are still looking for partnerships.

What makes your company unique?

Originality and diversity. -our unique pricing brings out the value and organic appreciation. Motivated workforce -Nekta Honey and Organics is not a one-person band. We value teamwork and empower our workforce with practical projects they run in partnership with the company. For example, everyone is first and foremost a beekeeper, be it a scientist, tailor, driver, or salesperson. Second, everyone runs a similar project in partnership with the company. Environmental contribution – When we do bee removals, we use nontoxic and organic consumables to extract the bees, and we carry them so that you are assured they will never be a nuisance.

Our primary concern is to have them alive and give them a new home in a hive or set them free in protected forests. We run a paperless promotion every two months, during which our packaging comes without labels, and all prices are discounted. This is both a contribution to the environment and an initiative to promote retailers. Lastly, I don’t know if this is unique or unfortunate, but to date, we have not received sponsorship for any part of our research or projects four years into this business. Yet, we have managed to stay competent with very little capital leverage. 

No business is without setbacks, can you tell us about a time when you faced a significant setback and how you recovered from it?

The most challenging boundaries to date have been gender stereotyping, market relevance, and, most of all, financial ability. As a social entrepreneur, I have made it a mandate to reinvest every cent back into the business, which means that it takes a lot of time to grow and progress-money is everything. Lately, we have had to use our clients’ APIs to set up our beehives next to theirs. This is because of the complications and requirements of securing a plot while pursuing and funding my studies. The question of collateral always arises. So, we have made the best out of our customers and growers. The African dream is to run the apiary in one place and produce for a much larger market. Lastly, an essential aspect of employment is worth mentioning when the company is still upcoming. Trying to keep people around without salaries or allowances has been a long road. I am eternally grateful to my counterparts for staying through the journey until we could finance the business and employees' food baskets. We look forward to more talent joining our team as we expand into South Africa and Zambia.

Even more, being a young Black woman in this industry is challenging. I have often worked with elderly owners of established farms, and they were only ready to do business when I presented my male counterpart to take the lead. Lastly, progress is necessary for business to remain relevant. Selling an organic product is quite a sport in a market flooded with adulterated honey. Initially, we introduced training where we would teach people to assess honey before tasting it. Then, we had to be creative and introduce food testing programs and promotions to encourage clients to embrace organic products.

How do you define success and to what do you attribute your success?

I believe success is the concept of materializing an idea or a goal. In my case, I succeeded in building a business on a niche opportunity that emerged when COVID-19 emerged. Being successful becomes a continuous process of maintaining success through upgrading, diversifying, and maximizing technology gaps. I credit my successes to unwavering determination and strong self-esteem. I had very little support, as you can imagine how stupid it may have seemed to dream of making money through bees. After a year, I opened up about the project because I also struggled to believe people would gather to learn about bees and honey. I often had to keep pushing because there was no better alternative. I also appreciate the people who believed in me along the way,my classmates from Chinhoyi University of Technology. They would keep me current on pending schoolwork and advertise my business when I was still selling a few bottles a month.

What's next for your business, what will it look like in 5 years?

Currently, We Provide Bee farming information, consultancy, and training, as well as apiary project setups, bee removal and transportation, Organic Honey, and products such as honeybee wax, propolis, attractants, and bee swarms. We also provide a market for local honey producers. Beekeeping equipment includes beehives, bee suits, smokers, and tools. As of March 2024, our organic farm's new product lines include spices, sweeteners (no sugar), nekta meats, chevon, rabbits, roadrunners, and broilers. Within the next twoyears, Nekta will offer Skin care products for people living with albinism, organic shops, and up to a thousand beehives nationwide. It will be a group of companies and one of the highest recruiters in five years. Nekta will be a household name and a monotonous commercial.

What do you think the future holds for Africa-focused entrepreneurs and advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are just starting out?

We still have notable free market economies in the global south, and entrepreneurs should thrive there. However, because of underlying limitations like capital and collateral muscle, joint ventures and partnerships may extend the survival of enterprises in Africa.

Owning a business while balancing a personal life can be challenging; how do you take care of yourself?

Itcan be challenging and stressful. I have made routines for school work, church, family, and business. Sometimes, I must sacrifice and invest more time in the company because the market is unpredictable.

What is your favorite quote or mantra?  What keeps you going?

Human resources are the best form of capital...I invented this one. My zeal for a better future for my country and the availability of food on every table keeps me going every morning. From a young age, I have always imagined saving the world and giving away money as a millionaire. I am running out of time, but I am on the right path. 

What is your favorite app or a business tool that you can't live without

The Queen Bee Calendar App is a must! It keeps me hooked on the beehives and activity.


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