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Alu-Absoluut: Chené Motaung

A female entrepreneur takes the construction industry by storm

Juliet Pitman

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Chene Motaung of Alu Absoluut

Elegantly-dressed and diminutive at just 4 feet, 8 inches, the last place you’d expect to find Chené Motaung is on a building site. But as founder and MD of Alu-Absoluut, an aluminium products manufacturing and installation company, this is exactly where she’ll be on most days.

It might be tough being a woman in the male-dominated construction industry but one of the first things you notice about Motaung is that she’s nothing if not gutsy. She’s also a risk-taker, launching herself into an unknown industry with little more than the determination to create her own company and be successful at it. Motaung worked in the banking industry for nine years in a division that financed small businesses. “I think it was there that I got bitten by the bug of wanting to start my own business,” she smiles.

After a merger at the bank that left her discouraged about the path her career was taking, she started Alu-Absoluut. For someone who admits she ‘knew absolutely nothing’ about the aluminium or building industry, it might seem like a strange sector to have chosen. But, as Motaung relates, she saw an opportunity and went for it. “We were renovating our house and the guy who was doing the aluminium was very unreliable.

We used to have to come home to check that he was actually doing the job. I realised, though, that he had a good business but that it was just poorly run, so I asked him if he wanted to go into partnership. I would do the marketing and financial side of things and he could do the operational side.”

But the deal was not to be. Her prospective partner lost heart when it took Motaung two long years to raise finance. Eventually, after much back and forth, she received R300 000 from the Umsobomvu Youth Fund which enabled her to purchase stock and machinery. And by that time, she was so far down the road towards setting up an aluminium business that she stuck with it, in spite of her lack of industry expertise. “The nice thing about this business is that there are a lot of aluminium suppliers who are trying to market their products to you.

One of our suppliers, Wispeco, provided free training and I went on that initially with my staff.” She has been equally resourceful about marketing the business. “One of the first things I did was to put together a company profile so I had something to take to sales pitches.

I also developed a website. And whenever we completed a job, I would take photographs and we produced flyers to market the company,” she explains. Constantly on the look-out for marketing opportunities, she applied for and received a subsidised stand at the Eskom Development Foundation Expo in 2006. The business gets leads from Databuild via a paid-for monthly service that emails through updated lists about all the construction work on the go.

Motaung eventually teamed up with a business partner, OJ Molotsi, who has over 30 years experience in the industry. “I brought him on board to do something on a job that we didn’t have capacity for, and we got talking. I explained what I was good at – getting the jobs, marketing, financials. It’s a match made in heaven because he now handles operations and runs the factory,” she explains. Molotsi became a 10% shareholder in the business in exchange for the skills and expertise he provides.

Alu-Absoluut still operates without an overdraft facility and although this presents significant cash flow challenges, Motaung has overcome these by getting credit finance from suppliers and carefully structuring her commercial to domestic client ratio. She explains: “Commercial clients only pay you in instalments or after the job is done, but if we do a domestic job we get paid a deposit upfront. I use this to purchase everything for that job and anything left over can be used for the commercial projects.”

She’s particularly proud of some of the bigger commercial jobs the company has landed, most recently a Tommy Martins Delta dealership and shops. For this project, Motaung managed to secure R1 million worth of project finance from the Umsobomvu Youth Fund on the strength of a signed contract. “When we started I never dreamed we’d be able to do something like this so it’s incredibly rewarding to hand over a big building like this and think, ‘Wow! We did that!’” She has good reason to be proud. If you’re looking for proof that dynamite comes in small packages, look no further.

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25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton

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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.

CEOwise

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Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect

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It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.

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“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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