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AVTS Roadworthy Stations: Ferose Oaten

A Cape Town entrepreneur has built a first-class vehicle testing business.

Monique Verduyn

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Ferose Oaten of AVTS Roadworthy Stations

While she was growing up, FeroseOaten’s family was in the business of passenger transport, so it seems onlyfitting that today she heads up AVTS Roadworthy Stations, a Western Cape-basedchain of test stations that offers vehicle inspection services, weighingfacilities, licensing and registration, number plates and quality management consulting.Oaten studied librarianship, worked ina variety of positions, and got a business school qualification under her beltbefore deciding to join AVTS as test station manager at the end of 1992,shortly after the business had been launched. Five years later, she bought outthe owner and grew AVTS from one to seven branches in the greater Cape Town area.“When the opportunity came to buy thebusiness, I had no security or property,” recalls Oaten. “With BusinessPartners’ help I compiled a business plan and was then able to access fundingfrom NedEnterprises through the Khula finance guarantee scheme. I did not applyfor Business Partners funding for the initial purchase, but later I receivedbacking from the organisation for the purchase of two properties, a weighbridgeand to enable further expansion.”

DrivingQuality

Oaten is uncompromising about quality.The result is that AVTS was able to achieve ISO 9001:2008 certification in2002, and has maintained this status at all branches for the last six years. “A quality management system is thefoundation on which businesses flourish,” she says. “It helps enormously tohave documented policies and procedures for all the activities within thebusiness. We are in a highly regulated industry, with our activitiesgoverned  by the Road Traffic Act. Sincethe opening of the first AVTS 16 years ago, we have not had to close down anyof our branches as a result of any irregularities, and we have not had onestaff member arrested due to any transgression or corrupt behaviour. It’ssomething we are proud of.”It’s an ongoing effort to ensure thatall staff members act with integrity. To achieve this, AVTS has created anenvironment in which every staff member has a sense of ownership, and ismotivated to be best ambassador for the company.

GainsayingThe Naysayers

It’s a tough business to be in. AVTSdeclares vehicles roadworthy – or not. “It’s not possible to please allcustomers all the time,” Oaten notes. Among the challenges AVTS had toconfront early on, was a shortage of cash flow, a scenario all too familiar tomany entrepreneurs. Worse still, she had to deal with cynics who did notbelieve that a private enterprise could flourish in a sector previouslyserviced by the traffic department.

Despite the naysayers, word of mouthpaid off, and continues to do so.

“We advertise in the print media, andon billboards and bins. We also have branded vehicles which help to spread ourmessage throughout Cape Town,and we use networking opportunities to create awareness of the business as wellas of vehicle safety campaigns. But our reputation has been our biggest assetwhen it comes to bringing in customers.”Oaten herself is a networkerextraordinaire. She currently serves as the president of the Retail Motor Industry(RMI), and has previously served on the boards of the Cross-Border RoadTransport Agency and the South Africa Roads Board. She is also the regionalchairperson of the National Vehicle Testing Association and plays an activerole in the NVTA’s Free Safety Test Campaigns where motorists are offeredsafety critical tests of their cars prior to holiday seasons. Oaten is alsopart of the Businesswomen’s Association and serves as its nationalvice-president and chair of the Cape Town chapter.

Survivingthe times

The last six months have seen adramatic decline in the motor industry, something which has hit AVTS hard. Tosustain the business, the company has put stringent cost saving measures inplace, in both payroll and operations. “We are not unionised as we have aworkplace forum,” says Oaten. “Its role is to ensure that not one AVTS employeeis retrenched. The strategy they have come up with has assured the stability ofAVTS at least until the end of the year.”

Theroad ahead

Passenger vehicles are currently testedfor roadworthiness on change of ownership; buses, taxis and trucks are testedannually. The government plans to enforce periodic testing of all vehicles inthe near future. Should this happen, it will obviously bode well for teststations. Oaten says she is not keen to expandAVTS in its current form; instead, she is hoping to franchise the business. “Weare ideally suited to franchising as we have a proven business model, an ISO9001 operations manual and experienced management and staff, some of whom seethemselves as prospective franchisees.” Contact: www.avts.co.za

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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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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Vital Stats

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.

merge-app

“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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