From the Startup Business Campus to Harvard:
The Inspiring Journey of Faith Mokgalaka and Her Agritech Startup, Puno
19 September 2023 | Agnes Nyathi, Author: Portfolio manager: Stakeholder Engagement and Community Growth
In the vast landscape of entrepreneurship, there are those remarkable stories that shine as beacons of inspiration for aspiring young entrepreneurs. One such story is that of Faith Mokgalaka, a 23-year-old visionary hailing from Limpopo, South Africa. Just two years ago, Faith embarked on a journey that would eventually take her from the Startup Business Campus to one of the most prestigious institutions in the world, Harvard University. This is the incredible tale of Faith Mokgalaka and her revolutionary agritech startup, Puno.
Faith’s journey began with a fateful decision to participate in a hackathon hosted by the Startup Business Campus, called the 4IR Aquatech Accelerator which is a sector-specific programme that seeks to fast-track sustainable solutions for Africa’s water-energy- food nexus challenges. The programme opens up a whole new world for the development and sustainable growth of the Southern African region.
With determination as her driving force, Faith conceived Puno, a startup that focuses on aiding smallholder farmers in their quest for financial stability. Puno acts as a financial partner, offering a resounding “Yes!” to farmers in need. The startup’s mission is clear: to provide smallholder farmers across Africa with access to vital financial resources, including loans, financial education, and insurance.
Unlike most participants, Faith joined the hackathon without a team. She was fearless, she persevered, ultimately presenting her concept to the judges and securing the second-place position as a solo participant. This accomplishment served as a testament to Faith’s unwavering determination and her belief in the potential of her idea.
Faith’s journey from Limpopo to Harvard is a reflection of her diverse background. Raised in Limpopo, she ventured to Johannesburg to study computer science at the University of the Witwatersrand. Her roots in agriculture run deep, having attended an Agricultural High School and later purchasing three hectares of land in her home province. As a third-generation farmer, Faith’s connection to the land is profound.
In August 2023, Faith received a life-changing opportunity—a chance to study and attend a programme at Harvard University, thanks to a collaboration between AWS and Harvard Business School’s iLabs. Out of 500 applicants, Puno was selected, marking a significant milestone in her entrepreneurial journey.Faith openly acknowledges the challenges she faced when launching Puno. Understanding the needs and realities of farmers proved to be a formidable task. Additionally, she initially believed that substantial capital was required to start her venture, only to discover otherwise.
Faith’s journey would not have been possible without the support of Startup Business Campus, an institution dedicated to fostering young talent and entrepreneurial spirit. Recognizing the potential in Faith’s idea, the Campus incubated her project, paving the way for its future success.
Faith’s vision for Puno extends beyond its current accomplishments. She plans to employ 14 individuals to further her startup’s mission. On November 17, 2023, Puno is set to launch a platform for individuals interested in investing in small farmers, interested parties can go to www.puno.africa.
Johannesburg, South Africa: 01 November 2022. The Startup Business Campus has officially announced the Startup Business Festival under the theme “Launch Fest”, a hybrid event that will take place from November the 1 to the 30 of 2022, at The Mills 66 Carr St, Newtown Johannesburg. Read More