‘I’m happy to report that since winning the competition we have expanded our production!’ says Welile Gumede, who launched Azowel Projects as a frustrated young chemical engineering graduate unable to find employment. She saw the immediate needs in her community of iLembe, KwaZulu-Natal, and identified possibilities with unused farmland in the area, which sparked the idea to plant and distribute crops.

‘We started out with 10 tunnels and now occupy 20,’ she says. ‘We’re also in the early development stages of growing crops other than tomatoes and peppers.’

Since Welile was named the Rising Star 2020, Azowel Projects has been presented with a number of investment opportunities, much to her delight. ‘I’ve been approached by investors… A lot of people are confident that I’ll make this venture work, and that feels really validating.

‘An award like this is encouragement to go out and do more. It’s such an honour and inspires me to keep going. The award not only afforded me invaluable exposure, but I was also able to use the prize money to pay my staff salaries at a time when it was needed most. It’s just an incredible opportunity.’

For more information, please visit Azowel Projects .