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5by20 Women Entrepreneur: It All Started With a Bag of Oranges

By:  Bessie Mogale Aug 19, 2013
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President Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea, stopped by Johannesburg's Park Station to meet with 5by20 women entrepreneurs

President Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea, stopped by Johannesburg's Park Station as part of a nine-day trip across Africa on behalf of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Bessie (middle in the gray sweater) was part of the women entrepreneurs group that they met during the trip.

I was raised by independent businesswomen -- my mum and grandma -- and ever since I was a young girl, I have always been an entrepreneur. It all started with a bag of oranges.

I sold each one to make a profit and when my mom found out she told me to use the money to replace the bag. Much to her dismay, I then used the change to buy sweets to sell to all my school friends. It seemed I took after my grandmother who owned a butchery, a grocery store and other shops.

Later, I got married and had children, but then found myself single and unemployed raising three sons by myself. In 2005, I opened a “tuck shop” in a one-room shack. I only had enough money to buy one crate of cold drinks, a few bags of maize meal, sugar and tea to sell to my customers. It was a difficult time but I was determined to work hard for my family.

I did not go to school and learn business skills but I had passion and determination. I did not think I needed training because I was already running a business, but then, I went to a Coca-Cola 5by20 business skills training course and realized I had a lot to learn. It was my stepping stone. I learned to crawl, to stand up, and to walk as a businesswoman.

My business did well but my shop was so small people would say, “Bessie, your shop is so small that we cannot see everything in here.” I needed more space to grow.

Then, Coca-Cola gave me a “container” (a stand-alone shop) with public phones, a cooler and 15 cases of Coca-Cola beverages to get me started.  I researched what my customers would like to see in the shop and my business did well. I made more money and hired an employee.

My youngest son is still in school, and I am proud because the money I make in my shop means I can give him an education. I am proud to say we have food in the house because of my business.

Watching my mum and grandmother work hard and grow their businesses  while I was a young girl remains an inspiration and motivation for me to grow my business. Some people think I am now fine. But I am not done. One day I hope to grow my shop into a supermarket.

Bessie Mogale

I still need guidance. I still need help and education so I can keep achieving my dreams. Dreams are meant to be followed and are the things that challenge us to do better and grow as people.


Bessie Mogale lives near Johannesburg, South Africa and is the proud owner of a shop called Tshepiso Trading Enterprise. Bessie is a participant in Coca-Cola’s 5by20 entrepreneur program, and recently participated in a roundtable discussion with President Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton in Johannesburg.