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Siyaka Metal Works: Wilson Langa

A network of word-of-mouth referrals keeps business growing

Juliet Pitman



Wilson Langa of Siyaka Metal Works

Turning 53 in June, Wilson Langa can look back and pat himself on the shoulder for taking the decision 14 years ago to start his own business. Now employing 14 full time skilled artisans, Wilson’s Siyaka Metal Works workshop in Auckland Park, Gauteng, is a successful producer of unique metal gates, chairs, gazebos and the like that not only made him independent and provided employment for his brother, but gave an opportunity to several steel workers to become artists and be creative in their daily jobs.

“I was doing standard steel work, the same stuff over and over again, when I thought to myself: “Why don’t you see if you can make it on your own?” Wilson started with the materials and tools that hehad accumulated, and no funding. “Then, after 12 months of not selling a single product, the doubts were getting bigger and bigger and life was tough. I had no employees to pay but needed to sustain myself by doing odd steel work as and where I could find it. But I was going to try until it worked.” Fortunately, the sales started coming. At first just a few chairs, and then, as word spread,we were away and never looked back.”

After eight years, Wilson relocated the business to a building on the corner of a busy street in Auckland Park, displaying sample products on the sidewalk. That was when business really took off. For someone in a self-funded business, who had no experience in traditional marketing either, trial and error would be the only route to success. Wilson found that the unbound creativity of his designs, based on 20 years of experience as a qualified welder, kept bringing the customers back, and led to a network of word-of-mouth referrals that still represents the key factor in Wilson’s ongoing success and growth.

Wilson’s gut feel 14 years ago that there would be a market for creative steelwork designs for everyday products was not only right, but has become that factor which sets him apart from the average producer of safety gates, burglar bars, deck chairs and the like. “I listen to what the customer wants, every product is unique, and I often suggest new ways of doing something,” says Wilson. “You cannot get products like ours anywhere else that I am aware of.” The downside to being so creative and attentive to detail in every design is that Wilson could not possibly oversee all 14 employees at all times, and sometimes things turn out not quite the way he envisaged.

Currently renting the old semi-industrial building that has become the heart of his medium sized business, Wilson’s dream is to own the facility in five years’ time, through hard work, growing his market and saving. Walking through heaps of bed frames, rusted fences and rawsteel, Wilson remarks that as long as his supplier continues to deliver the steel, as long as products are of high quality and unique, he knows the business will grow. His employees are paid well, and he would rather undercharge than overcharge a client. How do you decide what an artwork is worth?

“These are not standard items, and thus their prices differ from job to job,” he says. Finding the right price and being consistent about it is not the only challenge Wilson faces on a daily basis; the other is fluctuating demand. The company’s biggest order to date was for 150 chairs, but, there have been months with only one order for a gate. Private home owners would not drive from as far as Pretoria to pre-order custom products if Wilson did not have the right mix of keenly priced, unique products that fulfill everyday security and other functions, while significantly adding visual appeal to their surrounds.

The next big order, perhaps for office furniture, or to decorate a new government office, cannot be too far away. And even if the business continues to grow by word-of-mouth amongst private home owners only, one thing is certain: the quality of its products and creativity of its designs will see it continuing to grow for many years to come.

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.






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




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.


“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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