From unemployed mother to investor in community-based business
Dibuseng Phaloane, a graduate of the Absa-funded Youth Enterprise Development Programme in 2015 in Orange Farm, Gauteng, tells her story.
“Being unemployed in South Africa is a reality I know all too well. I am a mother of two who wants more for her children than I was exposed to. I was unemployed for three years, which made me realise I do not want to be a statistic in this battle. Insanity is said to be the result of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result so I finally had to admit that the futile hunt for a job was over, but was not sure what was next?
How would I put food on my family’s table? Enter JA South Africa and their offer to provide experiential entrepreneurial skills training.
“I was a subsistence entrepreneur before joining the programme – for me to survive I started selling polony hampers in my community, with 41 different options. This kind of variety set me apart resulting in my ability to make 100% profit (purchase price of R70 and selling price of R140). The revenue enabled me to send my 10-year-old to a private school in Orange Farm, which caters to her learning needs, and costs R12,000 a year, excluding the transport cost of R300 per month.
“But often I was unable to make the monthly commitment to school fees, let alone living expenses, and I was constantly stressed out by the possibility that my child would be suspended from school. And then in an attempt to expand the reach of my business, I walked to the opposite end of Orange Farm marketing my meat business along the way. This is when I met Jabulani Dlamini at the Orange Farm Skills Centre. He was scheduled to attend the programme and was an advocate for the programme – introducing it to other out-of-work, out-of-school youth in Orange Farm. I am a true believer in fate!
“A few weeks into the programme I learned about alternative ways to grow my business and I increased my product range by also selling rainbow chicken hampers. Later, I saw the opportunity to take the same products and open my own store where, in addition to the raw meat products, I sold fast food using my own stock and the profit margins grew exponentially. This decision came off the back of a market research exercise I was encouraged to do on the programme. Now I was able to support my family’s needs as well as purchase equipment for my business. I bought a deep fryer and a fridge and I am planning to buy a bigger deep fryer, priced at R3,000, to address the needs of my growing business. My profits have now grown from about R3,000 to between R5,000 and R6,000 per month.
“The entrepreneurial bug has now bit. I’ve recently been exposed to an opportunity to sell furniture. My boyfriend, who was an unemployed carpenter, presented his business case to me and since I am not strong in financial acumen, I consulted a fellow student on the programme for guidance on this decision. After an assessment of the business case against my cash flow and savings, I am now able to provide my boyfriend with seed funding of R5,000.
“My fellow student commended me on my business systems when he assisted me with the decision to invest in my boyfriend’s business. During the programme I learned how to record daily, weekly and monthly sales in a more effective manner. So now, at the drop of a hat, I am aware of my business’ financial health. I also realise that I don’t have to do everything in the business and am creating joint ventures with other small business owners – especially those I met on the programme – to support me in areas of business management where I am not strong.
During the programme the participants went on a field trip to Alexandra and this is what Phaloane said about the experience:
“It’s business as usual on the streets of Alexandra. Manic doesn’t even begin to describe the scene as cars toot their hooters while blasting every sound imaginable. The taxi driver dodged his way through the traffic. Our destination was Alexandra, well known for producing prominent, respected entrepreneurs and top politicians. I was amazed by the area itself. There is no space in Alexandra for anything. How can one run a business in such a congested place? Despite the challenges, JASA creates a culture of entrepreneurship but how possible is it here?
I knew that it was important for me to be part of the field trip but I never thought that it would change the one factor I thought was an obstacle for me to open my own business – an office, business space. For me it could make or break my business.
“We visited different businesses that had one common thing, they are operated against all odds. I found it very amusing and amazing that Tumi the shoe polisher and Valentino the restaurant owner established their businesses in Alex. Vali’s restaurant is on top of a house – there is no space but Valentino manages to run a restaurant, bar and clothes shop in one congested area. He used what he could get hold of to build his empire and, yes, he survives.
If it were me I would’ve noted the potential disadvantages, risks and failure of starting a business in a place like Alex, where rats use rocks to sharpen their teeth.
“I realised that for one to be an entrepreneur, it starts within – passion, determination and vision may lead me to be a successful business woman. Like Lorenzo, he worked very smartly to be where he is today. Due to his hard work he managed to create jobs for more than 100 people. He is a mentor to his fellow employees and partners. I want to achieve. It’s important that I stop looking for short cuts and rather use what I have to build a respected undertaking company that will create employment for residents of Orange Farm. I truly treasure what JASA has taught me. With the skills I obtained I will be able to conduct myself in a proper manner that will assist me to run a profitable business. Slowly but surely I am going there.”