Entrepreneurs standing on their own feet

Poloko Tau
2019-07-29 11:50
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Anglo American Zimele has supported 2 300 SMMEs in Anglo American Zimele has supported 2 300 SMMEs in the last 30 years.

As South Africa celebrates a generation of freedom, Anglo American acknowledges its deep roots in the country and looks ahead to its contribution in the next 25 years and beyond. Over the next five weeks experience 25 Reasons to Believe with City Press as we explore the economy, job creation, enterprise development, health, land reform, sustainability, technology and – most important of all – communities.

Anglo American's Zimele enterprise development and supply chain beneficiary programmes are an important part of the company's commitment to growing and supporting the South African economy. Poloko Tau profiles six entrepreneurs who have benefited from the company's various programmes. 

1. Portia Mngomezulu: Portia M Skin Solutions

Portia Mngomezulu, Portia M Skin Solutions.

Portia Mngomezulu once almost set her mum’s home alight when she used the microwave to mix ingredients to create skincare products.

Despite that and other early setbacks, her company, Portia M Skin Solutions, now distributes 250 000 units of skincare products every month to more than 2 000 stores nationwide.

Portia M has become a name synonymous with business excellence and great skincare products thanks to assistance from Anglo American Zimele.

Born in Nelspruit and raised by her grandmother in rural Phalaborwa, Limpopo, Mngomezulu decided to quit her full-time job as a system engineer in 2013 to manufacture skincare products using marula oils.

To do this, she has partnered with a co-operative of rural women who grow the indigenous African nuts, making a living from the land and building a value chain from the rural community to the bathroom shelves of consumers.

I want to use all African herbs to make quality skincare products for all people under the African sun
Portia Mngomezulu

Although she had registered her company in 2011, she resigned from her full-time job as she wanted to give her fledgling company a chance to succeed and get all the attention it deserved.

“This began as a cry to get rid of my stretch marks after I gave birth to my child, and it has turned out to be a successful cosmetics business,” Mngomezulu says.

Her range of products and facilities are all clinically tested and approved by the SA Bureau of Standards through the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University in Pretoria. Her products cater for all skin types. Initially, the range included body lotions, face creams and face washes. Now she has added baby care products to the list.

“I want to use all African herbs to make quality skincare products for all people under the African sun,” she says.

Although she was determined that her business would succeed, she inevitably found herself facing some challenges.

There were times when she had to use a two-plate stove and a kitchen mixer to make her products. Without any experimental background in making a successful product from scratch, she remembers that microwave.

“The microwave got so hot that I almost burnt down my mother’s house!”

With her background in IT, she managed to build a following on social media, but her dream was to put her products on the shelves to garner a larger customer base.

“I wanted us to be leading brand in Africa,” says Mngomezulu.

Now she has come full circle – a successful businesswoman who employs 32 people. The people who work for her come from disadvantaged areas such as Diepsloot and Atteridgeville in Johannesburg and Pretoria.

This huge shift in the business was made possible by Anglo American Zimele.

Zimele is an Nguni word that means to stand on one’s own feet. The programme offers support to small businesses and creates sustainability with the intention of enabling them to compete in the South African economy. This is part of Anglo American’s Sustainable Mining Plan to create jobs and grow small businesses.

“And that is the life-changing difference that we make to their families through job creation,” says Larisha Naidoo, head of Anglo American Zimele.

2. Kefilwe and Jomo Khomo: Kele Mining Solutions

Kefilwe and Jomo Khomo, Kele Mining Solutions.

Aproduct of Anglo American’s iron ore business, Kumba Iron Ore’s enterprise and supplier development programme’s class of 2016, Kefilwe and Jomo Khomo’s company Kele Mining Solutions (KMS) swiftly moved from three employees back then to 250 today.

KMS is a shining example of the company supplier development initiatives, which the company uses to help businesses push through the hard times of making it in the contract mining sector.

We give local businesses contracts and help them so that they have the skills we need. We provide them with equipment and knowledge so that they are able to compete
Kefilwe Khomo

Life before KMS’ first contract with Anglo American’s Kumba Iron Ore was “very tough, with business barely coming by”, says Kefilwe.

“At the time, we were doing work for a small private client. It was hard in the beginning, but then we started working with Kumba Iron Ore. They were looking for local businesses to provide services and supply products, and we saw an opportunity to enter the contract mining space.”

Through Kumba Iron Ore’s supplier development programme, Jomo – who is in business with his wife, Kefilwe Khomo – learnt how to run business operations and how to market the company, as well as other business principles.

“Things changed and, suddenly, we were getting more and more mining contracts,” Kefilwe says.

She explains that their partnership with Kumba Iron Ore inspired them to empower smaller businesses in their municipal area of John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipality, which includes the towns of Kuruman and Kathu in the Northern Cape.

“We give local businesses contracts and help them so that they have the skills we need. We provide them with equipment and knowledge so that they are able to compete,” she says.

KMS has grown beyond the power couple’s expectations in terms of capacity and the services it can provide.

On its website, KMS celebrates spreading its wings beyond the Northern Cape, into North West and Limpopo. And there’s more growth to come – the company is even exploring opportunities in Botswana.

A brief explanation online gives its history: “Kele Mining was established in 2007 as a mining consultancy company. We then converted into contract mining in 2014 with our first big contract obtained in 2016.

“The Northern Cape region was and continues to be a key focus area with a staff complement of two in 2016 to 200 in 2018. With the strong relationship established and large opportunities within the BEE framework, growth in the staff complement is also expected in newer areas, including Limpopo and North West.”

KMS largely attributes its success to understanding what its customers need.

Communications manager at Kumba Iron Ore, Sinah Phochana, says that Kumba has earmarked R2 billion specifically for local procurement and supplier development in 2019.

“Our focus on supplier development is rooted in lending a hand to grow small and medium-sized businesses in our mining communities.

“Kele Mining is a shining example of this commitment, and it is heart-warming to see the multiplier effect its success has had on the surrounding community and other businesses,” Phochana says.

3. Mukondi Mafune, Owner of a bread distribution company and facility manager for Mudzwiri Lodge

South Africa is a country with rich and varied opportunities for true entrepreneurs and, often, the simplest business models prove to be the most profitable.

Mukondi Mafune and her business as an independent distribution contractor for Sasko Bread is the perfect example of such an enterprise.

With a start-up loan of R539 473 from Anglo American Zimele’s business hub in Venetia, Limpopo, Mafune launched her business in the Musina area in 2013.

We deliver at least 3 000 loaves of bread a day, and 70 000 loaves a month
Mukondi Mafune

The contract with Sasko, paired with the low-interest loan from Anglo American Zimele, allowed Mafune to set up her own autonomous depot so that she could distribute bread to national retailers, community spaza shops and farm stalls.

As a qualified accountant, Mafune recognised the cost-saving significance of using specialised delivery vehicles, and utilised the funds from Zimele to purchase a Toyota Dyna truck, which can hold up to 2 000 loaves of bread for delivery.

“Since then, we’ve purchased three more trucks, and we distribute bread to all national retailers and franchises, all filling stations and about 136 spaza shops in our local communities,” says Mafune.

“We deliver at least 3 000 loaves of bread a day, and 70 000 loaves a month,” adds Mafune.

In addition, the loan facilitated the appointment of six permanent employees – three drivers, two assistants and an administration officer.

After the morning rush at the depot, Mafune heads off to the De Beers Group owned Mudzwiri Lodge in Musina, where she is the facility manager.

The 28-chalet lodge is home to Anglo American’s diamond business De Beers Group employees, and Mafune and her team offer hospitality and catering services to them so they can feel at home.

She employs 10 local people who take care of the catering, laundry and housekeeping at the lodge. In addition, the lodge also hosts events such as baby showers, birthdays and year-end functions, and it has facilities for training programmes and workshops – all of which are managed by Mafune and her team.

“I am lucky to have stumbled across the Anglo American Zimele hub at a time when I really needed them. The enterprise development programme was an eye-opener and I am a better businessperson because of it.

“Their doors are still open to me and I go there any time when faced with challenges. They are a very important partner in my business,” says Mafune.

4. Bucks Sibiya, Nomulwethu Construction and Projects

Bucks Sibiya, Nomulwethu Construction and Projects.

Ten years ago, Bucks Sibiya was running his start-up company, but it was on shaky ground financially and he didn’t have adequate experience.

However, he refused to throw in the towel and, when a much-needed opportunity presented itself, Sibiya grabbed it with both hands and changed his fortunes.

He is living proof of how enterprise development programmes that involve training and mentorship can change lives.

Since his desire to reach even greater heights in the construction industry was ignited by Kumba Iron Ore’s entrepreneur empowerment programme, it’s increased exponentially.

Today, Sibiya employs up to 18 local people through his company, Nomulwethu Construction and Projects.

“It is all thanks to Anglo American,” Sibiya says.

“Life has not been the same since my relationship with the company began. I am expecting it to change even more.”

Sibiya was born and bred in Postmasburg in the Northern Cape, and that’s where he started his company in 2009.

“Most of us were only small-scale entrepreneurs and opportunities were hard to come by. Our financial standing, experience and capacity were questioned whenever we bid for contracts.”

Then came this supplier development programme.

“It was a two-year programme through which entrepreneurs received extensive training in finance, marketing and human resources. It generally prepared us to manage businesses efficiently. I took advantage of the opportunity and it has changed my life.”

His company won a contract to build residential units as part of the R40 million hospital construction project that was financed by the mining company in Postmasburg in 2015.

He was roped in as part of the company’s policy of using local suppliers, and it was through this project that his business grew beyond his wildest expectations.

“I successfully completed my portion of the project there, and I think they were impressed with my work. Later in 2017, I was awarded another contract to upgrade a state-of-the-art despatch control room for the mining and drilling departments, which I completed late last year,” Sibiya says.

His company is now working on renovations to buildings and one of the workshops.

“My aim is not to rely on Kumba Iron Ore for contracts. I feel empowered by the mining company, which found me at Construction Industry Development Board Grade 0. I’m currently at Grade 4 and, once I complete the current project, I might end up at Grade 7.

“I am now exposed to even bigger opportunities in and outside the mining environment. Through the Anglo American programme, I have managed to build sustainable cash flow and capacity in terms of skills, experience and even working tools.

“Kumba Iron Ore has helped me in so many ways. Apart from the consistent work, which has allowed my company to grow, it has provided intensive business skills training and mentorship. It also pays invoices quickly, which makes a big difference to my cash flow and ability to pay my people.

“We are very grateful and appreciative of Kumba’s CEO and his team for sharing his vision of seeing local communities and business enterprises benefiting from the lifespan of the mines in our area.”

5. Jonathan Searle, Two Oceans Plumbing

Jonathan Searle, Two Oceans Plumbing.

Two Oceans Plumbing owner Jonathan Searle has only been part of the Anglo American Zimele enterprise and supplier development programme for a short time, but he can already see light at the end of the tunnel.

Searle is one of 10 entrepreneurs in Emalahleni, Mpumalanga, who were chosen to be part of the programme after a gruelling selection process.

Even before completing the programme, Searle has this to say about it: “The idea is for us not to be forever dependent on Anglo American. The programme opens doors for us in the broader industry.”

It was clear from the beginning that they were looking for companies that employed local people. We’re driven by exactly that … we’re empowered to help address the issue of unemployment in our localities
Jonathan Searle

He is right. Anglo American calls it Zimele, and the programme could not have a better name – Zimele means “to be independent and to stand on one’s own feet”.

Anglo American’s Zimele’s new strategy goes beyond funding.

Larisha Naidoo, head of Anglo American Zimele, explains: “High levels of unemployment in our country means that providing funding is simply not enough any more, so we will roll out a demand-led development programme that mentors entrepreneurs with a focus on young people, suppliers and enterprise development. Based on the needs of smaller businesses, we’ll support businesses by supplying general business acumen, safety, innovation and technical capability. As a second step, access to funding will be provided.

“What Anglo American Zimele does is help create something sustainable for the people living around our mines. It’s there to support them in growing their businesses,” adds Naidoo.

Searle says he has been doing business with Anglo American since 2005, and has high hopes for the development programme.

“It was clear from the beginning that they were looking for companies that employed local people. We’re driven by exactly that … we’re empowered to help address the issue of unemployment in our localities,” he says.

The skills he’s developing are just one piece of the puzzle. He is also anticipating exposure for his company and even bigger contracts.

“We’re trained in marketing; we get equipped with everything we need to know so that we can better position our businesses in a way that they are exposed to better opportunities in the industry. The uniqueness of this programme is that Anglo American is not pumping money into companies, but capacitates us and readies us for bigger projects,” Searle says.

He is already dreaming big and has no doubt that all his dreams will be realised.

“I have identified a few gaps that will be fixed as part of making us a self-sustainable business. As we grow, there will be a need to create an organogram that will not see me play more than one role due to financial constraints, because we will then be able to employ the right skills as finances improve,” Searle says.

His main aim is to evolve his company into a training centre for his employees, who would be trained and empowered at the same time, helping Searle ensure he is able to source staff locally.

Searle currently employs 21 people permanently and believes this can increase – along with his annual turnover, which sits at between R6 million and R7 million.

6. Johannes Tolo, Papanyana Holdings

Johannes Tolo, Papanyana Holdings.

Seven years ago, Johannes Tolo was part of his own team of four, and was working hard on pump and pipe maintenance at Anglo American Platinum’s mining operation in Mokopane, Limpopo.

Today, his company, Papanyana Holdings, employs about 253 people – more than 150 of them permanently. And Tolo is confident that he can double this number over the next couple of years; in fact, he dreams of one day employing more than 500 people. Getting to this point, though, hasn’t been easy. It was a combination of Tolo’s own steely will and burning ambition, as well as support from Anglo American’s enterprise and supplier development initiative, Zimele, that brought him here.

“We were just a small company working on pumps and pipes back then. I have Anglo American to thank today for our achievements and growth as a company,” says Tolo.

He started his company in 2007 and remembers just how hard it was to bring in business – until 2012, when the company awarded him his first contract to maintain pipes and pumps in Mokopane.

He juggled this work with training through Anglo American Zimele.

“A lot of things were not making sense to me before, but I learnt a lot about technology and many other aspects of business, thus generally acquiring a better understanding of business – and I can safely say it was not at all in vain,” he says.

Then came a life-changing opportunity, though it was slow to fully materialise.

“A tender for yellow fleet supply was advertised and we were shortlisted. We were appointed two years later in June 2016. Our employee figure rose to about 203 people as we took over yellow plant services,” he says.

Yellow plant services include the massive heavy dump trucks, excavators, front-end loaders and tipper trucks that transport ore at the Mogalakwena open-pit platinum mine. Anglo American Zimele provided the finance to acquire the necessary equipment and has supported Tolo with intensive business skills training and mentorship.

My eggs are currently in one basket as about 95% of my business is with Anglo American. But, with the skills and experience acquired through the mining company, I am confident enough to go out in search of opportunities with other companies, including state-owned enterprises
Johannes Tolo

“Anglo American Zimele saw my passion and invested in me at a time when I needed it the most. It has been a key factor in the success of my business.”

Today, he is a proud employer of a team that includes operators, artisans skilled in various fields, riggers, boilermakers and diesel mechanics. His company operates and maintains its own fleet and equipment.

So, where to from here?

“My eggs are currently in one basket as about 95% of my business is with Anglo American. But, with the skills and experience acquired through the mining company, I am confident enough to go out in search of opportunities with other companies, including state-owned enterprises,” says Tolo.

“Our aim is to diversify in the mining industry and get involved in actual mining operations. At some point, we also want to be able to manufacture some of the equipment and material such as the pipes and pumps that we use in our work.”

Head of Anglo American Zimele, Larisha Naidoo, describes Papanyana’s success as an excellent example of how sustainable local procurement networks can be built in South Africa.

“We see entrepreneur development as a major factor in creating sustainable businesses and communities that will thrive long after the mining operations they serve are gone,” says Naidoo.

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