Super couple treads where others won’t

Lucas Ledwaba
2019-07-29 11:53
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chibadura

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.

Chibadura Trading shows Anglo American's commitment to growing local procurement and developing enterprises in its communities, writes Lucas Ledwaba

Quitting her job and investing all her savings and employment benefits to start a car tyre and battery sales business was one of the toughest yet boldest decisions Nkateko Sithole has made.

“It was one of the scariest moments. I thought, what if it doesn’t work? But I knew that business comes with a lot of risk. If it didn’t work out, I would make another plan,” says Sithole from her business premises in Musina, along the busy N1 highway that connects the northernmost border town in Limpopo to Zimbabwe and beyond.

Her gamble has paid off because she and her husband, John Thipe, now run Chibadura Trading, which counts Anglo American among its clients.

Chibadura Trading, in partnership with Bridgestone SA and Global Wheel, supplies tyres, batteries and earth-moving rims to Venetia diamond mine as part of Anglo American’s inclusive procurement programme.

John Thipe and Nkateko Sithole are beneficiaries of the company's Venetia mine's commitment to emerging business Picture: Lucas Ledwaba/ Mkurukuru Media

In 2010, Anglo American launched a group-wide local procurement policy “in recognition of the strategic importance of fostering social development in host communities”.

The company said this was part of its sustainable vision “for responsible local procurement that positively contributes to a resilient supply chain, and the economic and social development of the communities in which we operate”.

Part of the policy includes finding, mentoring and supporting local suppliers technically and commercially by providing seed funding, commercial processes and advice, and by incubating entrepreneurial talent.

It also works with large global multinational suppliers to source locally and share commercial and technical skills, as well as to support suppliers to become globally competitive.

The husband and wife team put in a bid for the contract in August 2017. Last year, they were announced as the successful bidder and signed a contract with Venetia mine that runs until 2023.

Chibadura Trading, in partnership with Bridgestone SA and Global Wheel, supplies tyres, batteries and earth-moving rims to Venetia diamond mine as part of Anglo American’s inclusive procurement programme.

Their dream, however, started way back in 2006, when Thipe quit his job as a car spares salesperson to start a business – Chibadura Trading – in the same field. But, without enough capital, he found the going tough and went back to formal employment.

But that was not the end of the dream. The entrepreneurial bug also bit Sithole, who decided to resign from her job as a warehouse assistant at Venetia and re-establish Chibadura Trading.

The going was tough due to the high overheads, especially the high cost of renting business space in the bustling little town. Then came the deal with Anglo American’s diamond business, De Beers Group.

“Anglo American gave us a big boost. We are so grateful,” says Thipe.

Their hard work is paying dividends as they have been able to score a 30-day credit account with Bridgestone and are looking to sign similar deals with other suppliers.

Part of Anglo American’s programme involves collaborating with established suppliers to provide business management training to newcomers like Chibadura Trading. Sithole and Thipe underwent extensive training in Gauteng through Bridgestone SA and Global Wheel. They also took part in a yearlong incubation project during which they were trained in the finer points of business management.

“You are dealing with a giant when you’re dealing with Anglo American. You need to ensure that your things are right,” says Thipe.

The plus side is that Sithole studied marketing and applies these skills by finding new clients for the business, using social media and other means. Thipe, having worked in the car parts industry for years, already has experience in supply and sales.

Their hard work is paying dividends as they have been able to score a 30-day credit account with Bridgestone and are looking to sign similar deals with other suppliers.

“I think it takes passion to run a business. Nkateko has passion for the business,” says Thipe, explaining their recipe for success.

Sithole says that, although she always had a desire to go into business, she wanted to venture into something different.

“I just thought women are into salons and all that, but I wanted to start something different. I thought of the automotive industry. Initially, I wanted to start a tyre fitment business, but we did not have enough capital. I knew there was an opportunity because, when I checked, there were no competitors here in Musina, so I said: ‘Why not?’”

Their location is also paying dividends as they boast a huge client base from across the border in Zimbabwe.

“We have a lot of people coming from across the border to buy tyres and car batteries,” says Thipe.

This means that, if business is for some reason slow on the mine’s side, they are able to sustain their enterprise through the daily sales of their over-the-counter products.

The company employs two technicians and a supervisor who take care of the daily business of selling tyres, batteries and number plates. They have registered with the relevant accreditation authorities and plan to expand into other parts of the province.

A major plus is that they are located right in the middle of a planned special economic zone, which is expected to generate billions in revenue.


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