Cecilia Opelokgale has broken the glass ceiling in the local poultry industry, where both South African and Batswana men dominate abattoir ownership.
At grassroots level, many local women can be found in the poultry industry, running their own projects successfully and supporting many livelihoods, both at informal and semi-commercial level.
However, higher up the value chain at abattoir-level, women disappear and male ownership dominates.
Opelokgale’s Copel Rancho abattoir located in Serowe not only specialises in slaughtering of broilers, she works with Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises in particular, offering a key helping hand to many.
The 50-year-old mother of two told Business Monitor that her entrepreneurial journey started in 2014 and her goal has always been to give the smaller poultry farmers a boost.
“I ventured into the poultry business with the objective of helping small businesses grow so that they have a good environmental area to slaughter their chickens,” she said.
“I encourage small enterprises to use my facilities to slaughter chickens as we offer high hygiene and convenience.”
“Chickens are very sensitive, hence the need to slaughter them in an appropriate place which is bacteria- or infection-free, instead of doing that at home.”
Opelokgale stressed that although today Copel Rancho prides itself in providing the market with fresh chickens, the business’ growth over the years has not been without hiccups.
“Running such a business comes with high costs.
“The business’ survival has been driven by dedication, passion and learning from my mistakes made as an entrepreneur.
“I also worked in a lab before and have been able to use my work experience in running this business,” she said.
An abattoir needs very skilled personnel to keep it on its feet and running, as it is a scientific business that uses a lot of specialised machinery.
At present, Copel Rancho has the capacity to slaughter 500 chickens an hour, making it a high output production facility. Opelokgale currently has a staff of eight citizen workers, mainly women.
The Serowe-born entrepreneur expressed her heartfelt gratitude to the Local Enterprise Authority (LEA), which she said has helped and contributed a lot towards the growth of her business.
Copel Rancho first approached LEA in 2016 and since then it has been able to purchase additional machinery. The machinery allows the abattoir to slaughter more chickens over a shorter period of time.
“LEA also assisted my business with technical expertise, market access and training amongst others,” she said.