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Shela Business Enterprises: Filbert Mokale & Shela Moyo

A construction company reaps the rewards of being proactive

Juliet Pitman

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Filbert Mokale & Shela Moyo of Shela Business Enterprises

There’s a lot to be said for taking the initiative. When lifelong friends Filbert Mokale and Shela Moyo battled to find work after graduating with electronic and civil engineering qualifications respectively, they refused to sit around being idle and filled their time by getting involved in a range of voluntary community projects.

After hearing news of the Alexandria township renewal project, they launched Filbert and Shela Business Enterprises out of a shack in 2002, hoping to access business opportunities in construction. But the early months were tough and business was anything but booming.

Refusing to be demoralised, the partners attended regular community business networking forums, delivered their company profile to government departments and scanned the press for tenders that,without any capital, they had little chance of winning.

But perseverance and proactive behaviour have a way of paying dividends. “We came across a Department of Housing tender which we wanted to tender for but we needed partners to help us meet the skills requirement. We approached one of the companies we met at a networking event and it brought in a third partner,” recalls Mokale.

They won the tender worth R1, 7 million to carry out an audit on the condition of the structure of various existing houses in Alexandria.But, as Mokale explains, he and Moyo had no capital to carry out the job.

“Our partners, who had the financial muscle, said they were aware that we had no money but that because we took the initiative in approaching them and getting them involved in the opportunity, they would split the profit equally three ways and only claim back their costs,” he says.

The project was run successfully and met all its deadlines. As a consequence, the authorities extended the tender to include an even greater percentage of township buildings. A further tender for the Department of Education worth R1 million followed.

With money in their back pockets, Mokale and Moyo set about sourcing office space. “We rented really smart offices but it was a mistake,” says Mokale. The business won another tender, this time for the Department of Education to build a community centre in Soweto, but being inexperienced, particularly in the area of costing, the partners under-quoted on the tender and lost money doing the project.

“We realised half-way that we were going to lose around R300 000 but we took a decision to complete the project anyway. We had made a commitment to do so and knew that if we abandoned it, our reputation would be so negatively affected that we probably wouldn’t be awarded any more tenders by government,” says Mokale.

This, coupled with the overheads incurred by renting beyond their means, meant the business took a hard knock. But in spite of this,Mokale has a positive outlook on the experience. “We’re very proud of that community centre. We may not have made money on it but we finished it on schedule and it stands there as a showcase of our work,” he says philosophically.

A positive attitude allowed the pair to take on board some tough lessons and remain forward-looking. “We met Cyril Ramaphosa at a networking event in 2003 and months later in 2004 his personal assistant called us to request a meeting to discuss opportunities, and the Shanduka Foundation offered to provide us with business mentoring and skills development to help us run the business more professionally,” relates Mokale.

The next time the business won a tender, Shanduka provided it with a loan to execute the project. “This money enabled us to buy materials and run the contract successfully. We were able to repay the loan on time and we donated a portion of our profit to Shanduka’s Trust as a token of our appreciation, because without them we couldn’t have done it,” he explains.

“The mentorship and incubation services provided by Shanduka have helped the business in other ways as well, especially with things like accounting and costing.”Mokale and Moyo have come a long way since the days when they ran their business out of a township shack. Now they have their eyes on big dreams and hope to compete with the big industry players in the coming years.

As their pay-off line states, vision is about seeing the invisible and this duo has what it takes to make it happen.

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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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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