How did you come to start your own company?
I was a survey helper and stope worker for Lonmin for three years and throughout that time, I didn’t like my job. I wanted to find something I would love and would get me to achieve my dreams, because I didn’t see myself getting that out of the job I was doing. The idea to start Phakwe was popped out by a friend of mine who convinced me that business was the way to go. I formed a partnership with some people and fortunately for us the mines really came to our corner because at that time they wanted people in the communities they were operating in to become their vendors and not just employees. A mining project was advertised and my team submitted a profile to tender for the project. There were a lot of groups that submitted their profiles but in the end my group was better prepared than any other. So, we were engaged to work with white-owned companies that had already been contracted by Lonmin for a long time but were not BEE-compliant. Lonmin also gave us an advance payment of R500 000 that was paid over a certain period. The expectation was that there would be a skills transfer and that in two, three years we would be able to take on the scope of work ourselves. It was in 2009 that we started Phakwe and I have been the Managing Director since the beginning.
Tell us about the support you have received from the Mooinooi incubator and how instrumental it has been to your business success.
I started partnering with the Mooinooi incubator under Shanduka Black Umbrellas in 2013 and what they did was to help me with the monitoring of my management accounts, putting them in place and helping make sure my compliance was in place. They also helped me with leadership, in terms of managing my groups and my marketing better. But the best thing they did was to facilitate a huge partnership between Phakwe and a technical company in Pretoria. That company was providing services for Lonmin as well but their services were coming to an end so Shanduka introduced me to them and an arrangement was facilitated for their scope of work to be transferred to Phakwe. This development grew my company from a simple underground cleaning business into a core underground rehabilitation company. It was a major breakthrough.
What have been your proudest achievements as a leader?
My proudest achievement is that I have been able to carry on the business despite numerous challenges. I don’t have the best business under the sun but throughout all these years the business has showed endurance, perseverance and growth. When we started in 2009 we only had 80 employees but today we have no less than 500 employees and are generating R36 million annually. We are not yet where we want to be in terms of the bottom line but the business has looked after a lot of us and contributed to the South African economy as well. I am very proud of that.