From teen mum to suc­cess­ful en­tre­pre­neur

CityPress - - News - AVAN­TIKA SEETH avan­tika.seeth@city­press.co.za

When Ntombizanele Matome fell preg­nant in Grade 11, she made a prom­ise to her mother that she would still make some­thing of her­self.

Af­ter the Rusten­burg-born woman gave birth to her son in July of her ma­tric year, she found a part-time job at a doc­tor’s prac­tice as a re­cep­tion­ist, which paid R750 a month.

Clean­ing the surgery and mak­ing ap­point­ments for pa­tients al­lowed her to pro­vide for her baby. She kept go­ing to school and, with her fam­ily’s sup­port, ma­tric­u­lated with a Bach­e­lor’s pass and en­rolled at univer­sity the fol­low­ing year.

But af­ter two years at Rand Afrikaans Univer­sity (now the Univer­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg), she dropped out to start a civil con­struc­tion com­pany with her sis­ter when she was just 21.

Af­ter two years of bat­tling to se­cure con­tracts, she looked for a job and landed one at Sa­sol, where she worked in the pro­cure­ment depart­ment for an­other two years. She re­signed in 2004, but dur­ing her time there, met her hus­band, a chem­i­cal en­gi­neer.

To­day Matome (34) is the proud busi­ness owner of Basadi Un­der­ground Con­trac­tors (Pty) Ltd, and the boss of 13 em­ploy­ees.

As a young black woman grow­ing up in apartheid South Africa, Matome speaks of her jour­ney to be­com­ing a busi­ness owner and how she man­aged to break the mould.

“I am an avid reader, so I told my­self that cir­cum­stances were not go­ing to con­trol where I’m go­ing in life. My role model is my late father. We didn’t grow up in a rich en­vi­ron­ment, but he in­stilled in us a sense of pride as an African in the sense that you can do any­thing.

“He taught us how to play chess, which made us see that there’s al­ways an­other way to get around things ... We knew that the sky was the limit. He re­ally in­spired us.”

Matome’s com­pany spe­cialises in of­fer­ing sup­port and lo­gis­ti­cal ser­vices to the min­ing in­dus­try, es­pe­cially the plat­inum mines in and around Rusten­burg. Her com­pany was es­tab­lished in 2008 as a close cor­po­ra­tion, but in 2010 she con­verted it to a pro­pri­etor­ship. The name Basadi, mean­ing women, has per­sonal sig­nif­i­cance for Matome. She be­lieves there are not enough fe­male en­trepreneurs and that it’s dif­fi­cult, par­tic­u­larly for black women, to make it in min­ing.

“I faced many chal­lenges. There was lack of fund­ing and op­por­tu­ni­ties. You go to those mines, you are black and you are fe­male. There was plenty of dis­crim­i­na­tion. I even get it from my own em­ploy­ees some­times. Now that I’m mar­ried, they pre­fer to speak to my hus­band when they want in­creases, not re­al­is­ing I’m the one who is run­ning the com­pany,” she laughs.

Matome has learnt how to nav­i­gate the tough min­ing busi­ness.

“It has its ups and downs. You must be pre­pared. When there were those plat­inum strikes, my com­pany went un­der. It is out of your con­trol. You get paid for the job you have done. I de­cided to di­ver­sify so that when the strikes hap­pen next time, I am able to pro­vide other ser­vices. I am an en­tre­pre­neur so I have to think out of the box.”

Matome needed fund­ing for a con­tract and ap­proached the IDC, which ap­proved a R1.7 mil­lion loan. She used the loan for equip­ment and work­ing cap­i­tal. The low in­ter­est rates of­fered by the IDC are re­ally help­ful, she says.

“The IDC has work­shops where you get as­sis­tance and men­tor­ship, so they are re­ally great at giv­ing ad­vice. Af­ter I sub­mit­ted my busi­ness plan and they did a due dili­gence, it was about three months be­fore I re­ceived my fund­ing. It de­pends on the com­plex­ity of your pro­ject though, be­cause I have friends who are still wait­ing for their fund­ing to come through.”

Matome’s plans in­clude grow­ing her hu­man cap­i­tal and ex­pand­ing the ser­vices of­fered by her com­pany. She be­lieves in the po­ten­tial of young black peo­ple.

“We must start to cre­ate sus­tain­able busi­nesses. My black brothers and sis­ters, that is my dream. If you can build sus­tain­able busi­nesses that will be­come em­pires, it will be amaz­ing. It’s inherent in us. We can do it.”

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