When young Mpumalanga-based small businessman Nhlanhla Fortune Mashinini founded his own industrial plumbing company in eMalahleni in 2016, he thought he was well on his way to living his entrepreneurial dream.
Things didn’t always go as planned, though. By his own admission, the first couple of
years were tough. His first job as a new business owner was a R20 000 contract to install
underground pipes, and he had to resort to selling fast food and renovating houses to
keep his head above water.
Today, Mashinini’s company, FortchPortch, employs 16 people full-time and nearly 30 contract workers – and he’s looking to grow his employee numbers in the coming months following a sharp increase in new business. In the past year alone, the company has been able to grow its revenue from R75 000 per annum to more than R3 million, thanks to major contracts from Anglo American’s Coal SA subsidiary and Transnet, and short-term contracts for the eMalahleni local municipality.
Mashinini’s break came when he joined Anglo American’s enterprise development initiative, Zimele, in 2017, where he says he ‘started learning to be a businessman’. With Zimele’s help, he entered – and won – the Mpumalanga Economic Growth Agency (MEGA) Best Entrepreneur Award in 2018. He used his R200 000 prize money to buy a ‘honey sucker’ truck to service sewage extraction contracts at local mines, and he hasn’t looked back since.
“I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I’ve sold airtime and hair extensions, and I run a fast
food facility which operates to this day. I’ve even traded forex. But joining the Zimele
programme was a major learning curve, and it made all the difference. It’s taught me financial management, how to do competitive pricing and how to market myself,” said Mashinini.
“From March 2019, all the hard work, and knocking on doors, started paying off. I managed to get onto vendor databases, and started winning industrial plumbing and maintenance contracts from the Phola mine, where I actively participate in the supplier development programme.”
Zimele – which means ‘Stand on your own’ in the Nguni languages – was established in 1989 to develop and empower entrepreneurs and facilitate job creation. Its model is a continuous “work in progress” and adapts according to the current environment of South Africa, says Anglo American’s Head of Zimele, Larisha Naidoo.
“The partnership between Zimele and FortchPortch is a great example of how entrepreneur development can drive sustainable local procurement activity, create jobs, develop skills and contribute to the growth of more prosperous communities,” said Naidoo.
His association with Zimele has opened Mashinini’s eyes to opportunities he never thought possible three years ago. “With Zimele, I look forward to growing my business into
what I had always dreamed it would be.”