Meet Voiceout Deaf (Pty). A vegetable production aiming to keep it fresh for you.
Motto: “I take every opportunity as if it’s my only and last opportunity I will ever get.”
Being a woman entrepreneur comes with a unique set of challenges. Being an entrepreneur with a hearing impairment, however, would surely compound the difficulties faced in a tough economic environment.
“Being deaf and black woman make things more difficult because my challenges of being unable to express myself. The community always see deaf community as disable and unable to do thing for themselves.’’
Yet, the indomitable Victoria Matebogo, a deaf entrepreneur, is unfazed by these obstacles. Her enterprise, Voiceout Deaf (Pty) Ltd, is a black woman-owned business based in Mohlakeng.
Matebogo left her corporate job at Standard Bank to start a business that would cater for the deaf community. Providing deaf people with greater career opportunities was her goal.
“Often deaf are given simple jobs where they are not interacting with direct customers or managerial positions. That’s when I decided to start my own business and hire the deaf community and make a place where they can feel at home and express their skills.”
Founded in 2016 as a cooperative for deaf people, Voiceout Deaf was part of the Agri-park program initiated by the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and was converted to a private company by Matebogo in 2017.
As the Deaf Federation of SA reports an unemployment rate of 70% in the deaf community, her business is a welcome relief. It employs 41 people, including 9 deaf employees.
The company specializes in vegetable production and offers business development services and tour guide training to the deaf community. It produces vegetables that are sold to local households, such as Pick n Pay, SPAR, and to retail shops in and near Mohlakeng.
Voiceout Deaf lacked sufficient equipment and approached GEP for assistance. They applied for non-financial assistance and were assisted with Township Business Renewal for equipment purchase in 2018.
“GEP assisted me with garden tools. When I started agriculture, I didn’t have any working tools. I always had to borrow from other farmers. We also got support to buy bicycles for the deaf workers. The deaf had challenges travelling to work using public transport because of communication challenges.”
In 2021, the business received Covid-19 relief funds. It was able to hire more employees, attract more customers, and improve its capacity.
“The support made us to start working efficient since agriculture is seasonal business. Workers were able to come on time to work and not sharing tools.”
Matebogo’s outstanding performance has earned her awards from the Gauteng provincial government and the national Department of Agriculture.
She hopes to have her own farm in the future. “We currently farm on a leased farm. Having our own farm will give us total control and growth.”