“I wake up every day wanting to be a better person than I was yesterday,” says Mathibeli. “I came from a financially disadvantaged family in Phuthadtjhaba (Qwa Qwa, Free State) and my background motivates me to be better. Working as a gardener was just a stepping stone to better things.”
Becoming an entrepreneur
Mathibeli launched Calvin and Family Group (CFG) in 2005 as a small cellphone accessories and repair shop on shared premises in Durban’s South Beach. He started the business as a way to finance his studies and provide himself with shelter. The company soon grew and he branched out into the development and construction industry, initially specialising in residential developments.
“I had no financial backer so I had to be resourceful to find my own source of capital investment to kick-start this business. What was even more challenging was dividing myself between school and my business. By day I was a student at Durban University of Technology and by night I was a businessman,” says Mathibeli.
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The company grew rapidly and branched into commercial, retail, industrial development, low cost housing and schools. Today CFG employs 150 permanent staff members and a further 400 on long-term contracts.
“Our mission is to be the best partner to our customers, suppliers and employees,” says Mathibeli. “To realise our mission, we strive for profitable growth, operational excellence, customer satisfaction and strong brand positioning. Employing the right people, having the necessary infrastructure, the relevant capacity and providing the required service punctually, are regarded as non-negotiable principles.”
Today, CFG’s biggest clients include middle-income earners and other property developers, with current projects spanning rural property development, township property development, stadiums, office parks, bridges, water and sanitation. Their unique selling proposition is a 24/7 emergency line that includes a service follow-up.
“When we ventured into property, I started by simply buying and selling,” says Mathibeli. “Now we are working on legacy projects that will remain intact from generation to generation. We never thought that we would be part of a team that has constructed an International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Stadium.”
Looking ahead, the Durban-based company plans to launch its boutique hotel and resorts offering in 2017. Mathibeli is also spearheading a campaign titled #5years5000jobs.
“I believe it is possible to create a minimum of 5 000 sustainable jobs in the next five years and to become one of the most preferred service providers across the continent and internationally. We are not going to achieve that by ourselves, but by forming partnerships with young people who have a vision to start their own businesses. We will fund and mentor them and then automatically, jobs will be created.”
Mathibeli’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs:
- Don’t go into business to make quick cash, you need to be passionate about what you are doing and make it sustainable.
- Run your race at your own pace.
- You don’t need to know people to have a successful business. They need to know the products. It’s through knowledge of your services that they can potentially become a client.
- Market research is very important and corporate imaging is vital.