JOY PHALA: On switching careers and starting afresh

“One gets to a point where you feel as though the work you do is not fulfilling. When one dreads getting out of bed to go to work, you pretty much know something needs to change!”

After years of being a Management Consultant with a Bachelor of Commerce degree, Joy Phala left the security of her job to venture into what captivated and excited her, in a whole new industry.

She switched careers from management consultancy to landscape design and growing fresh produce. She is now a landscape designer and founder of Organic Kitchen Gardens.

We got into her psyche and asked her for some pointers on starting afresh.


 Tell us about Organic Kitchen Gardens and what you do for your clients.

Organic Kitchen Gardens is an edible landscape design company for chefs, restaurants, and private residents through a design, installation and maintenance process. We create organic edible exterior spaces that reflect our client’s style and personal aesthetic.

The concept came about as a result of wanting to create edible gardens that would fit into the urban and suburban environment without the typical farm look associated with fruit and vegetable gardening. Gardens that would reflect sustainable food production while demonstrating good landscape design.

 

How did you know it was the right time to switch careers and how can one be sure of when to take such a bold step?

For me, it was more a case of circumstances forcing me to take a particular direction in life more than it was timing.  But if I was to generalize, I believe one gets to a point where you feel as though the work you do is not fulfilling. When one dreads getting out of bed to go to work, you pretty much know something needs to change.

There’s no surety when it comes to making a change. The biggest risk is that it might not work, and that’s ok because it leaves room for one to gain a deeper understanding of who they are and where their creative genius lies.

It’s ok to be completely terrified because so is everyone else who starts out on the road less traveled. Click To Tweet

What advice do you have for those who want to switch careers, perhaps to a completely different industry too, but are too intimidated? 

It’s ok to be completely terrified because so is everyone else who starts out on the road less traveled. The realization that doing work that matters to me is more important than the fear that I’ll fail is what keeps me going.

The only way to know that your venture will work is how the market responds to it. So I literally just started... Click To Tweet

 

What steps did you take to prepare for entering a new industry and being successful in your new venture?

It’s a great idea to understand the legal framework that governs the industry one is embarking on. It’s also a good idea to understand the existing market, the possible competition, and how the industry works, as long as we don’t use this preparation as a reason to hide from doing the work we know we are capable of doing.

The nice thing about being an entrepreneur is that you just start. No one other than the marketplace has to qualify or validate your venture.  I was one of those that did not get their ducks in a row before introducing my service to the market.

The only way to know that your venture will work is how the market responds to it. So I literally just started.  I did not learn about the industry while sitting on the sidelines preparing to get in, I learned while on the job and discovered there’s so much more to learn still. Also, I took informal courses and studied Landscape Design.

I want to remind Africans that we were practising organics before pre-colonialism days and way before Organic became a trend... Click To Tweet

 

What is your vision for Organic Kitchen Gardens? Do you see yourself changing the landscape of agriculture in the rest of Africa in the years to come?

I want to create exterior outdoor spaces that people love to eat from, but also enjoy living in, outdoor spaces influenced by design and the lifestyles my clients lead

I want to also remind Africans that we were practicing organics before pre-colonialism days and way before Organic became a trend and we need to pick up where our ancestors left off and take center stage when it comes to issues of sustainability, biodiversity, and organic land care.

There’s no surety when it comes to making a change. The biggest risk is that it might not work, and that’s ok... Click To Tweet

Let’s talk about ‘Grow Organic’, your organic gardening course. What does it offer students?

Grow Organic is a three-part course consisting of a fundamentals level, an Intermediary level, and an Advance level course.

The aim is to educate delegates on how they can create their own edible oasis with organically grown vegetables, fruits, flowers, and herbs in an urban setting while supporting the development and success of the ecological environment around them. For now, the classes are conducted through a face-to-face interaction.

You have two lovely boys; what is your fondest, and perhaps funniest memory to date of you, them and getting your hands dirty in your home garden?

My boys are always experimenting with tasting leaves of herbs and edible flowers. My fondest memory is when I had asked them to pick and taste the flowers of Pineapple Sage Herb. It was the first time they had these edible flowers and they exclaimed, “Mommy, it tastes like sweeties!”

I remember thinking how honored I am to be sharing this part of my life with them. Hopefully, they’ll pass it on to their children and children’s children.


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