Edward Tsumele, Cannabis Business Africa/CBA Editor
If you happened to be in the trendy Maboneng eight years ago, and you loved hanging around its entertainment venues, such as the Living Room at the Main Change Building at the Corner of Kruger and Fox Street, or the popular Shakers Bar and Restaurant at Maverick Corner, the chances you might have met Mdu Lepele. And If not, at least the chances are also that you might have even enjoyed his selection of tunes or even danced to some of the tunes.
This is because when this regenerated part of town was on the rise, with international tourists flocking to the place and us locals rediscovering a place that we had long abandoned to the fate of urban decay, Lepele was one of the entertainers in this area as a Club DJ. He used to be a DJ at The Living Room and Shakers, among other venues that became an attractive option for those looking for fine and a good time in an area on the rise at the time. That was long before the coronavirus was even known to exist beyond science circles.
“Ja. I used to be a DJ, coming from the background of a sound engineer. I used to Dee-Jay at Shakers and The Living Room among other venues,” he tells me in an interview held in Maboneng this week.
That was then, but now, Mdu Lepele has turned a new leaf in his career. He is one of the young people who are pursuing business opportunities in the fledgling cannabis industry, which is currently making waves around the globe as the next big industry to emerge. And seemingly things are going his way in the industry since he started getting involved and getting to learn about cannabis as a potential business opportunity.
“I was first introduced to the cannabis business by a friend who introduced me to the Dagga couple a few years ago, whereby I attended some of the cannabis events organized by the couple. This is where I learned about the business potential of cannabis.
“I and a friend first did the markets round, selling especially cannabis oil. And from there I learned everyone thing that I needed to know about cannabis’s value chain,” Lepele says.
And learn indeed he did as soon he said bye bye to a career as a DJ and the now 32 year old business man turned to cannabis as a career, first working for well known cannabis brands, exploiting the opportunity in the cannabis industry, selling a number of CBD products that government through South African Health Products regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) had allowed to be traded under an exemption.
“During that time, I learned everything that I needed to know, especially the technical process of extracting valuable compounds from the cannabis plant. I actually taught myself the skills of extracting cannabis compounds. And today I am a skilled cannabis extraction technician, working with a number of clients in the pharmaceutical and dispensary value chain of the cannabis industry,” said the business man from the Vaal, South of Johannesburg.
Like a good learner and as someone looking for opportunities in business for himself, having come from an event management background, Lepele eventually branched on his own in 2020.
“In April 2020, just as the Covid-19 lockdown was announced for the first time in South Africa, I launched a cannabis brand iElengos Supply n the middle of it all. I had to do a lot of things at the same time and as fast as I could. I had to register a company, hire a designer to design the company logo and packaging, as well as start manufacturing CBD products. I also had to market these products, and thank goodness, I used social media platforms such as WhatsApp. It was madness. But guess what, to tell you the truth, business boomed, and I did well at the very beginning,” explained Lepele his cannabis business journey.
Besides selling his company’s various CBD products, he does the manufacturing of his own brand’ss, productsworking with laboratories in Gauteng, Lepele also works as a consultant in the cannabis industry for those who either want to get involved in the grow, manufacturing or marketing. The cannabis value chain is quite extensive and in South Africa, it is slowly but surely starting to take shape..
“Last year I travelled to Zimbabwe to consult for a cannabis start-up in that country formed by a group of people who are building a facility for processing cannabis. I went there to assist them with regards to the plan for extraction at that facility. Once they are done putting up the facility, I will work with that start up going forward as a consultant cannabis extraction technician,” he revealed.
His business acumen and skills in the cannabis processing value chain is starting to get recognition for this young cannabis entrepreneur.
“last month I was rewarded with the Youth in Business award of the Un-Sung Heroes series by Sunday World newspaper. In that category I was one of only five people recognized and I found that very much affirming as a cannabis entrepreneur,” Lepele said.
The biggest recognition for Lepele in his foray into the cannabis business so far, however, is when he was appointed by a US cannabis equipment manufacturing and processing company, CannAvoilve Acquisition as their South African representative. In its company profile the company is listed as :
” Provider of financing services for the cannabis industry based in Seattle, Washington. The company offers financing services like lease financing and debt financing, advisory services, operational services and incubation and acceleration services.”
The ink is not even dry about the deal, and he was not even dry when he spoke to Cannabis Business Africa this week, and he was clearly over the moon about this new opportunity.
CannAvolve Acquisition gives business minded individuals an opportunity to invest in the company by buying a unit of the processing equipment for a a minimum of $10 000, and the return on investment is quite huge. My responsibility as the representative of that company is to market those business opportunities to those interested in that investment. The units are limited as many people are rushing to invest in that business,” said Lepele, who said that he himself has invested in that business.
“That opportunity gives people an opportunity to invest in the cannabis business in return for income every month, without getting involved themselves in the operations of the business,” he said.