How did you identify the opportunity in the market?
When I finished varsity I landed a job as the marketing director of a CCTV company. A year later I started my own CCTV business, which was to become Motseng. I bumped into Sandile Nomvete, now the CEO of Motseng, later that same year. We had been at school in the same area and were good friends. He suggested we go into business together and that was how we created an investment business that also has operational expertise.
Where did you find start-up capital?
I operated out of my father’s study in the beginning. I landed a CCTV contract with Kunene Brothers and with no credit and no money to buy equipment I had to get bridging finance. I approached one of the banks and said “Here I am, with a business plan and a contract.” The contract was what secured the finance. The bank was also impressed that I had something other than a hair salon or a catering business in mind. I had to pay the money back within a month, so I made sure the installation was absolutely perfect. Kunene Brothers paid me and I reimbursed the bank. That deal provided the seed capital for Motseng. After Sandile joined the business, we concluded our first deal with a large security company that was looking for an operational partner.
What was your differentiator?
At the time, the concept of facilities management was huge. We saw that there was scope to differentiate ourselves from the guy with the bakkie. We brought security, guarding and cleaning services together under one umbrella and offered reduced costs for bulk work. Our move away from the soft services domain into property enabled us to start managing assets valued at over R1,7 million. Today we are the largest wholly black owned property management company in the country.
Can you identify what your big break was?
Our first deal with Enforce Security moved us into the big league. That was where we learnt about investing in a business. The deal with Marriott enabled us to diversify, as has our stake in KAP International.
What are you most proud of having achieved?
We are creating a legacy. I want to be able to influence the way South Africans do business, and inspire young people to crack it in the business world. We are a good example to others. We have created a business that will survive without us.
What is your growth strategy?
We have turned the corner as a business. You need to be out there long enough to be recognised. Today we have the right synergies, the right people. Our teams understand what it is that makes Motseng tick. The operational side of the business takes care of itself. The future is about being able to grow our investment arm and, in so doing, continue to grow the operational side. We are now focusing on positioning Motseng so that we find the right business partners.
What was the biggest obstacle you faced?
Finding finance was a huge obstacle. When we landed contracts, we needed money for training, uniforms and salaries. The only way to get around cash flow problems is to build strong relationships with financial institutions. Also, when you are 23, you look and sound young and it takes a lot to convince people you are serious. It was hugely interesting to go to tender meetings where I was the only black woman in a sea of white men. But I had an idea and a car, and I was ready to take on the challenges. As an entrepreneur you have to remember that success requires sacrifice and hard work – don’t ever believe anyone who tells you different. There is no success without struggle.
Business magazines and articles about successful women in particular. I find inspiration in these stories.
A last word
I have found that women in business are very good at identifying the problems we face, but if you go out there and are damn good at what you do, you don’t have to prove anything to anyone. The proof is in the doing. That yields great rewards.