By Gontse Sello
When Eleanor Sibenya from Mamelodi East launched her cannabis health food store in 2020, she had a good feeling about where it would go. Two years later she was proved right, in April this year she left her day job to work on her business full time, and she has not looked back ever since.
The business bug bit Sibenya while she was still in varsity, where she learnt about the fundamentals of good business and partnerships. In varsity, she started a number of businesses that failed but gave her valuable lessons.
When her friend suggested that she go into the cannabis industry, she was immediately interested.
“I fell in love with the cannabis plant when I first got exposed to it, for recreational purpose. It was something I had taken as a hobby. It was when we had a fun day at school, Gontse (a friend) asked that I bake Space muffins (muffins infused with cannabis). She later said that they were good, and I should start selling them. That's when I started doing research about the industry and opportunities in it,” said Sibenya.
She started experimenting with different cannabis products.
"I first started with cannabis ice tea. There was a market, popular in Mamelodi, known as the Orbit Scale Sessions and I had sold out. I was encouraged to do more and explore with food and how I could better edify my product."
Sibenya loves selling her products at the markets because it gives her a chance to interact with her customers and potential customers and educate them about the plant and products.
"It is often mistaken as a getaway drug to other drugs, these interactions help with de-stigmatising the misconceptions about the plant.”
Although South Africa is the fourth-largest cannabis producer in the world, the stigma attached to cannabis remains a challenge.
In 2018, the Constitutional Court made a landmark ruling when it decriminalised the private use, possession and growing of the cannabis, however, it remained illegal to use cannabis in public and to sell it.
According to the 2021 report by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, the industry is worth 28 Billion and could create between 10 000 to 25 000 jobs across the country.
Sibenya said the lack of education about the industry, the red tap, and access to funds are still an issue.
"Getting a license is expensive, and the waiting line is long. It is a challenge going to this business without a source of income, as it is difficult to get access to grants."
She said she is constantly reading up on developments in the country, so she can take advantage of the opportunities that arise and avoid getting into trouble.
Sibenya said she aspires to one day create jobs and employ people who share the same passion as her.