- Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela is an award-winning brewmaster who had to face numerous challenges to get where she is today
- Apiwe's dream was almost shattered when the government banned alcohol sales due to the Covid-19 pandemic
- Through hard work and resilience, the brewmaster has moved her operation to Europe, where she distributes close to 200 000 cans to UK beer lovers
- Apiwe's drive and passion for authentic South African beer have earned her a spot on the list of Briefly News Women of Wonder 2022
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Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela, 40, has been breaking glass ceilings with her passion and love for brewing beer. She is South Africa's first female black brewmaster and has taken her brand to the international stage.
Apiwe founded her African-inspired beer and cider company, Tolokazi Beer, in 2019, and her business almost went under a year later due to the pandemic. In an exclusive interview with Briefly News, Apiwe shares her life journey and how she overcame some of her biggest challenges.
Being the first black female brewmaster was not an easy journey for Apiwe
Nxusani-Mawela, a microbiology and biotechnology graduate, says her interest in the beer industry peaked while studying her respective course at university.
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Apiwe's interest became a passion for authentic South African beer after taking a beer brewing course.
"My passion for brewing authentic South Africa beer came after qualifying as a brewmaster and realising that I did not fully understand the brewing of traditional African beer.
"I wanted to create beers of African origin that would compete on the global stage."
However, starting her company from the ground up proved challenging for Apiwe because she had to knock on many doors to get funding and convince people to believe in her dream.
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Apiwe first had to deal with discrimination because people could not comprehend the concept of a black woman being a brewmaster and owning a brewery, which predominantly employs women.
"Sadly, I received discrimination, especially in my early years. People couldn't understand how a black woman could be a brewmaster and own a brewery.
"What has been an advantage for me is that I have proven myself and my capabilities within the industry," explained Apiwe.
Apiwe had to overcome the challenge of getting funding for her business. The brewmaster explains that she had to knock on doors for six months to get investors interested in her company.
Then, after an additional 12 months of resilience and selling her business plan to investors, her funding finally came through.
The Covid-19 pandemic almost destroyed Apiwe's business
Aside from starting her business from the ground up, Apiwe says the Covid-19 pandemic was the biggest obstacle of her life.
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Nearly a year later, the alcohol ban directly impacted Apiwe's business, and she could not operate.
She had to close down her brewery and was left with debt.
"It was a very difficult time, but somehow, I overcame it.
"What worked for me was keeping a positive mindset and understanding that the pandemic was a global phenomenon and not directed at me personally," said Apiwe.
After shutting down her brewery, Apiwe received a LinkedIn invitation from the chief marketing officer of the subscription service Beer52 in Edinburgh, who offered her an opportunity of a lifetime.
Apiwe now brews her beer in Europe and distributes close to 200 000 cans that reach 100 000 subscribers in the UK.
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The Tolokazi Beer brand founder draws her inspiration from the people around her
Apiwe attributes her entrepreneurial success to her background and upbringing.
She was born and raised in the rural town of Butterworth in the Eastern Cape to parents who were both teachers.
Her father left his teaching career to start his own business while she was in high school, which fed her entrepreneurial drive.
"So, I grew up in an entrepreneurial environment that helped me see the entrepreneur life as a possibility.
"My parents also instilled great values in us, which have guided me through the years," said Apiwe.
The brewmaster also explained that she draws inspiration from the amazing women in her circle.
Apiwe says she learns from the challenges they face in their industry and how they overcome those obstacles.
The women in Apiwe's family are also businesswomen, and she learns a lot from them as they keep her grounded.
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Apiwe finds her journey in the male-dominated industry fulfilling, and returning to her hometown fills her with joy.
"The journey has been and continues to be a great one, with all its ups and downs.
"It is always great to go back home and have people show appreciation for my work," said Apiwe.
Apiwe's success keeps growing. Not only was she selected as one of the Briefly News 2022 Women of Wonder recipients, but the brewmaster was also one of the 2022 Craft Beer Marketing Awards (CBMAs) "Crushie" winners.
According to IOL, Apiwe won a platinum Crushie for best packaging design.
Briefly News 2022 Women of Wonder aims to inspire women
Briefly News wants to celebrate the female changemakers of 2022 by honouring a few influential, inspiring women.
The team looked for women who made a success despite some tough challenges they faced in their respective sectors.
Our goal is the create inspirational content that shows our audience what the embodiment of a resilient and strong South African woman is.
Briefly News wants to motivate other women to go beyond their limits.
If you want to participate in our next special project or want to be featured in one of Briefly News' women empowerment articles, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with Women Empowerment in the subject line.
Boipelo Mabe went from humble beginnings in Alexander Township to becoming a top 3 Miss SA finalist
In another inspiring story, Briefly News previously reported that humble beginnings tend to be a make-or-break aspect for many people, but not for Boipelo Mabe.
The Alexander-born woman didn't have the lifestyle she had now fall into her lap. Mabe had quite a tough financial environment to grow up in, but her parents wanted better for her.
Boipelo had a nurturing space to grow
Her parents had quite the influence on her, Boipelo said.
"My parents, through their resilience and hard work, motivated me to reach for all that seemed impossible."
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Source: Briefly News