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Ma Bertha: Spaza Shop


Bertha Beyate Damane came to South Africa in 1968 from Lesotho. She has one child, but also takes care of her brother’s children. Ma Bertha describes herself as a businesswoman and has tried various ventures over the years. For thirteen years, she worked in a private school but realized that she was not going to have the means to send her own child to such a school. However, with her determined character, she managed to open her own grocery (spaza) shop and two years later has begun earning a higher salary than before.

Recommendations & Results


The students recommended that Ma Bertha keep a daily accounting ledger. Ma Bertha uses this book to identify the products that are selling fast and the ones that are not. She is also able to track which products are being sold during the week, as well as the products being sold during the weekend. This tool has provided her with a better understanding of product demand in her spaza shop.


The students suggested that Ma Bertha maintain a fully stocked spaza shop to better appeal to her customers. Ma Bertha still has problems in building up a sufficient amount of stock. Her shelves are never full and the lower prices from the Somali owned spazas are luring her customers away.

Exterior Appearance

In order to make the store more pleasant for customers and to improve the quality perception of her spaza, the students suggested she repaint the walls and polish the door. Ma Bertha plans to do it at the beginning of 2012.

Going Further...

A delivery service could help her be more competitive in pricing. Product pricing is extremely competitive between the township spazas. How can traditional spazas compete with the recent entrance of the less expensive Somali-owned spazas into the marketplace? Can other factors such as merchandising, advertising, and quality products compete in a highly sensitive pricing market?

Also to improve efficiency and reduce the number of trips to the wholesaler, township spazas may also find Hugo’s delivery business valuable.

Fast Facts

> Monthly sales = 10,000R

>  Main income stream: sweets, cool drinks and bread

> No employees


> Maintaining a fully stocked spaza

> Price competition

> She has been robbed 5 times