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Even hardy entrepreneurs hesitate to enter an industry in which they have no experience, but Alleen Magumbi believes in grabbing an opportunity when he sees one.

The 38-year-old businessman and engineer from Randfontein knew nothing about poultry farming when he jumped into the deep end by taking over a huge poultry project in Hartbeespoort. Predictably, it’s been a harrowing journey, but today Alleen is the owner of Ulusoy Africa Poultry, a chicken farm and abattoir in Randfontein which grows 10 000 chickens per 6-week cycle.

Looking back, Alleen still believes in grabbing opportunities and learning on-the-job, but advises aspiring entrepreneurs to rather start small.

Alleen’s fearless approach stems from his childhood near Makhado in Limpopo. He lost both his parents in Grade 11. Destitute and adrift, he could easily have unravelled into a life of substance abuse, he says, but he tapped into an inner strength of religion given to him by his parents and which still guides all his decisions.

He moved to Johannesburg after high school looking for any education and advancement he could find. He found some menial jobs before latching on to the Medupi power station project where he knocked on every door he came across. He started as a messenger at Medupi, soon got noticed as a keen worker, and eventually found his way onto a training course for civil engineers.

This launched Alleen into a thriving career in the building industry, but at the same time opened for him the path to entrepreneurship. The excellent project-management skills that he gained is the basis for any business venture, and the project-to-project nature of the industry allowed Alleen to work his way towards independence – from trainee at Medupi, to engineer working for a wind-turbine company, to project manager at various construction companies, until he was able to negotiate deals as an autonomous contractor.

Soon he was looking for opportunities outside of construction, including in the paper industry, which started off with lots of promise until a double blow hit Alleen hard. Two containers of paper that he had imported were stolen from a warehouse. Then came the pandemic, and Alleen’s business was virtually wiped out.

Alleen sprang into action, he took on subcontracting work and explored opportunities in supplying hand sanitiser and protective clothing. One of the prospective clients he canvassed was a poultry farmer who told him how sought-after “contract growers” were – farmers who would take in day-old chicks and grow them for six weeks for the big chicken-meat brands.

Intrigued, Alleen started researching the opportunity, and within months took over a huge poultry farm linked to a land-restitution project in Hartbeespoort. Apart from the difficulties of learning everything about poultry farming from scratch, the politics around the project was toxic. Alleen says elements in the community and some big industry players made things too difficult, and he decided to scale down by buying his own farm. He found just a chicken farm for sale in Randfontein and took with him from Hartbeespoort lots of new knowledge as well as an experienced farm manager.

He could put in R3 million but was R1.5 million short of the full price of the farm. The Landbank as well as the Industrial Development Corporation had declined his application for finance, and the banks would not even look at it, he said.

At Business Partners Limited, however, “they actually listened to my story,” says Alleen, “and they understand the difficulties of entrepreneurship.” Business Partners Ltd agreed to finance Ulusoy Africa and today Alleen is hard at work and plans to increase the number of chicken houses from the current three, and to add a hatchery to the farm. Characteristically, Alleen has already looked further afield, and is about to open his own chicken grill called Just Chicken in Magaliesburg where he spotted yet another gap in the market.

About the Author: BPL Admin

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