By Kefiloe Kajane
Tṧepo Heqoa’s passion for planting mushrooms has seen him rise to become a well-known mushroom producer in Lesotho.
Heqoa is the owner of Herale Mushrooms.
Apart from growing mushrooms, Heqoa also sells seeds to aspiring mushrooms producers.
Having studied BSC in Business, Heqoa said he did not have many challenges when he ventured into the mushroom business in 2014.
Narrating his rise to being a top mushroom producer, Heqoa told theReporter that he was attending school in Zimbabwe when he learned about production of the fungal growth from a friend.
The friend had earlier attended a workshop about mushroom planting.
Because Heqoa and his friend were desperate for money, he said they ventured into planting mushrooms, which they sold to their peers.
“When I came back home to South Africa, I decided to plant a few mushrooms, but it was not easy. At the time you could only find the seeds from the government,” recalled Heqoa.
When Heqoa eventually found some seeds, he began planting on a small scale.
“I had learned some few things about mushroom planting back in Zimbabwe so I managed to produce, but not commercially,” said Heqoa.
“When I started planting I was on a semester break from school.”
Heqoa said he went back to school in Zimbabwe, where he learned more about mushroom planting and all things related to producing them.
After acquiring the necessary knowledge, Heqoa said he decided to plant more mushrooms with a view of “going commercial”.
He added: “I was lucky that through the government of Lesotho I was able to visit China, where I got to learn more about mushroom planting”.
Heqoa said he went through many steps before he could perfect his mushroom production.
He finally decided to build a small block house that he uses as his factory to produce mushrooms.
Heqoa said once the operation was in place, his production increased to the point where he had to temporarily employ a few people to help him.
He said he now harvests mushrooms every day from his production plant.
Heqoa has entered an entrepreneur’s competition called “The Hook Up Dinner”. After winning the “best pitch” category, he has made it to the finals set for next month.
Heqoa said he did not have any expectations of winning or losing, he just wants to participate.
While going into the finals did not scare him, Heqoa said he was “just thinking positively that he is going to win”.
He said that he is hoping that in two years he will have a bigger space to produce more mushrooms. He also wants to plant more varieties of mushrooms.
Presently, Heqoa’s company, Herale Mushrooms, sells its produce to catering companies, hospitals, and individuals.
Heqoa said he is hoping for a bigger market in future.