Ledwaba wants to be meat king of kasi via his hampers
Experience in beef production and packaging, and knowledge of meat consumption trends in black communities, prompted Wally Ledwaba to get into the meat trade.
Ledwaba, 42, of Paulshof, northern Johannesburg, opened Alexandra-based Dark City Meat & Chicken Factory, in 2017. Before that he had been working with beef farmers in the North West.
Then, in 2013, he approached a friend who had a farm which was not operational and asked him to start farming cattle.
Ledwaba and his friend would buy calves, grow them to between 150kg-200kg, and sell them to farmers at auctions.
It was good business from the word go, and he did it for a year and a half until the rise in maize affected affordability in feeding the calves.
Ledwaba's next step was to supply meat at discounted prices for people who had funerals. He processed it on the farm, in Hartbeespoort, North West. His method was to buy a cow from farmers, take it to an abattoir and then process and package the carcass according to the customer's needs.
He would package it as beef stew, mince, wors or any of the prime cuts - all according to what the customer wanted.
Apart from funerals, clients bought the meat for weddings, stokvels and other events.
"We offered people what they could not get from other farmers. Farmers would sell a family the whole cow without asking what they need the meat for. Our service was looking at the need of the customer and giving them the meat they require. In most instances, they did not need the whole cow," Ledwaba said.
"We then did an estimate whereby each person would consume about 200g meat per portion at an event. If you are serving 200 people then you will need about 40kg of meat, not the whole cow."
This helped to change the manner in which customers purchased meat for their functions, he said.
Buoyed by the success of his initiative, he opened Dark City Meat Factories to take this to the next level, and closer to people.
"I processed and package meat to suit customers' needs. I developed some form of guideline, via meat hampers, to help clients arrive at the decision about what they want to buy, what they can afford, based on their need and how they consume meat."
He also designed hampers for individual and family consumption.
For example, a student hamper is made up of 500g of beef stew, short ribs, boerewors, mince, chicken, steak and beef burgers - all for R290.
There are other hampers to suit different family sizes.
Dark City also delivers across Gauteng, and also packages for companies contracted to supply meat supply for the army, hospitals, correctional services and other institutions that require meat for in-house catering.
Ledwaba's vision is to have outlets in different parts of Gauteng; more so in the major townships.
"I want to be the go-to guy when it comes to sourcing of meat. I want to give the township community the dignity they deserve.
"They have to know that everything about their meat is processed and packaged in their township, thus improving the state of food security in our communities."
Customers can place orders online and Ledwaba admits this facility needs to be upgraded to be in line with what modern online trade platforms should look like.
"Our first delivery can be as early as 8am and our last is as late as 10pm - daily," Ledwaba said.
He supplies more than just meat hampers but also includes offal and other parts of the cow which are much loved in the townships. Meat Hampers also has chicken products, including free-range chicken popularly known as "hardbody".
The demand for the latter has grown so much that Ledwaba sells about 100 units per day.
"My aim is to have a women-led sales representatives programme in the [major] townships nationwide. These women would then manage our customers base in their areas and ours will just be to deliver.
"It is a model I am building at the moment and it will create jobs for people in our disadvantaged communities."
Ledwaba has three vans with refrigeration for deliveries, which are about 25 destinations on a normal day.
He is currently working on a number of partnerships that will help grow his business.
"I do what I am doing for our people. Meat is a precious thing... I believe I will succeed because I am providing a unique solution that suits the pockets of our people," he said.
There are seven full-time workers at the meat factory, including delivery drivers.
It is not surprising that Ledwaba operates a business in the food industry. In the 1990s he read for a diploma in hotel management at the then Wits Technikon. He finished the course in 1999.
His 15-year-old daughter has begun to appreciate his passion for meat.
"She understands what I am doing with my business, so she is very supportive.
"I want people living in the townships to get a good service. I don't want to see them queuing at some butchery in town. I want to give them dignity. They deserve it."
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