Going all the way Up
At a very young age, Thabo Sikukula was exposed to entrepreneurship by his mother, who, along with her job as a teacher, sold handmade sweetened ice block packs to help pay for seven of his brother’s school expenses including himself. Thabo grew up being inspired by his late father who was a successful businessman and his mother’s entrepreneurial spirit who had a number of side line businesses to financially support her family. The family was further burdened financially following the death of Thabo’s father when Thabo was only 3 or 4 years old.
Thabo began his self-propelled enterprise development path by starting various businesses such as running shebeens and, owning funeral parlours. Thabo like any new start up business owner, Thabo had his fair share of failures, successes and was even bankrupt twice. But, in spite of the challenges along the way, Thabo maintained his relentless spirit and never gave up and continued pursuing his dreams. With this dedication and commitment, in 2015, Thabo purchased a timber manufacturing company in Stutterheim, which manufactures timber doors and window frames. His understanding of the requirements needed to establish a successful business, led him to seek funding to support his venture.
A collaboration between Old Mutual South Africa’s Masisizane Fund (MF) and the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA). MF contributed towards Thabo’s new venture, where Masisizane provided R3 750 000 loan funding and SEFA provided a R5 000 000 loan to Thabo. The Old Mutual Foundation also saw the potential in Thabo and his business and provided him with an additional R1,5 million grant funding to establish a small sawmill factory in Butterworth, Eastern Cape
In 2015, Thabo took over WP Timber and manages the business together with his wife Noxolo Sikukula. Since taking over, the business now employs 145 workers, 136 of whom are permanent, services more than 300 clients which include outlets such as Boxer Build, Cash Build amongst others. The business turnover has grown in excess of 35% since Thabo took over the business. With the success of this business, Thabo has been able to support some of his brother’s children and his own family. With the establishment of the small sawmill factory, Thabo plans to create 60 new jobs in the impoverished area in Butterworth and recruiting workers from the local community to contribute to the development of the local community. The business has also secured South African rights to fabricate UPVC windows and doors with a leading German UPVC factory, Kömmerling.
Thabo’s journey is far from over, he says he will consider his business a success when “I am an international company”. In the next 3 – 5years, Thabo intends on establishing WP Timbers nationally then expanding the business to grow it internationally. Coupled with his great attitude, passion, patience, high level of endurance and lots of hard work, Thabo is an entrepreneur who is doing great things and going all the way up to enable his positive future. He says he is “still accomplishing and not yet accomplished”
With the combined mandates of the Old Mutual Foundation and Masisizane Fund, many joint enterprise development initiatives, like Thabo’s have been positively impacted, where not only the lives of entrepreneurs are affected but also the communities in which these initiatives operate.. Both organizations’ objective is to contribute to job creation, reduce inequality, promote economic growth and support, develop and promote entrepreneurship while attracting investment to SMMEs. The support offered by both these organisations is not only financial, like Thabo, many of these businesses have been provided with support beyond funding which includes mentoring and guidance to ensure the business is sustainable and profitable and grows in order to make a long term impactful difference to all those involved.
The private sector plays an important role in supporting and encouraging the communities in which we operate, to provide platforms and skills for sustainable economic development and a secure and fruitful future for South Africa.
Organisations like Old Mutual and the Masisizane Fund will continue to support initiatives aimed at empowering, and enabling and improving education, and entrepreneurship and empowering the nation. At the end of the day it should be every corporate, and every citizen and every communities’ objective to have a thriving and supportive national economy where everyone has the potential to do great things and have a positive future.
Simangele Lekhuleni , CSI Consultant at Old Mutual.