WHEN the producers of Linford Vodka put their product on the market for the first time last December, nothing could have prepared them for the frenzy that ensued as consumers scrambled for the few available bottles.
Launched in December 2017 during the festive season, Linford Vodka promptly caught the attention of many holiday makers forcing its way into their shopping baskets and easily becoming the talk of Maseru.
Little did the customers who could not get enough of the beverage know that it was only available in a limited quantities because it was being tested.
“We were caught off-guard by the overwhelming response our product generated on the market,” one of the producers, Neo Sekhesa, said in an interview with Lesotho Times this week.
“Our plan was just to put out a few bottles to see how they would be received but now we are being inundated with calls from people who want the vodka.”
Named after her late father, Ms Sekhesa said the vodka was tested and certified by a South African company in Cape Town “which tests most of South African alcoholic spirits”.
Ms Sekhesa, who is also the principal developer, said the product concept was initially a hobby which she started in 2010 while she was still at school.
She later turned it into a concreate business idea when she realised she could not find a job after graduating from the Tshwane University of Technology in South Africa in 2016.
She teamed up with two other young professionals, Mkhululi Dlamini and Mohau Mochebelele of Grand Duke Investments to come up with a unique product that is today known as Linford Vodka.
Asked what could have led to such a positive response, Ms Sekhesa believes it had something to do with the fact that Linford Vodka is a unique brand of alcohol in that it is the only locally produced vodka made only from locally available ingredients.
“Our product is unique since it is produced in Lesotho from wholly locally available inputs. It is also produced by group of young people who are passionate about making a difference in their lives.”
With such a positive lift-off, the producers are already working on how to take things to the next level of commercial production.
“Our biggest challenge at the moment is attending to the backlog of orders from people dying to have a taste of our product. We find ourselves in this unique situation because we are currently producing in very small quantities off the kitchen floor.
“Going forward we need to upscale the project and that will require a huge investment. At the moment we do have not the funds but we are currently working that and we hope that Basotho will support us in this.”
While their target market is primarily the local market, Ms Sekhesa said they had ambitions of breaking into the international market.
“We would definitely like to export our product because that would put Lesotho on the map. We have observed that many products from our country being finished elsewhere and only find their way back to Lesotho as finished goods.
“So we want this (vodka) to go out into the market as a finished local product.”
She said fully fledged commercial production would also enable them to create jobs for many graduates across a wide range of professions.
“I believe the enterprise will provide employment opportunities for young professionals currently struggling to find jobs from areas such as food science, finance all the way to marketing.
“Our people should not be scared to fail in business as that is common. People who have made in business have failed many times before finally making it,” she said.