PORTIA HITS HER STRIDE
Portia Nondo leads with a confident, meticulous yet easy stride as she steps into her McDonald’s Boksburg restaurant on a busy Friday. This was the second of her restaurants. Germiston, her first of five, all in Ekurhuleni, presented a shock for her when it opened in 2007 including fielding calls from customers in the small hours of the morning and not getting a familiar corporate salary for months on end. Fast forward to 2018: Portia is fulfilled that through her business, which employs about 220 people, she’s also able to engage with her community to assist disadvantaged school children with their education. She has come a long way, but she politely defers to her team when the topic of success comes up. Her business journey has experienced many challenging moments. “It is during tough times like these that a strong brand like McDonald’s makes it easier to approach the banks for assistance and that a partnership relationship with the Franchisor does and can make all the difference,” asserts this former banker who amazingly opened a quintet of McDonald’s restaurants – including those in Vosloorus, Parkrand and Sunward Park – over a seven year period. “I have not expanded in number of restaurants in the past 4 years because I believe it is important to pause and consolidate your business. This allows for the embedding of operational efficiencies which leads to organic growth. You need to stop and check whether everyone on your team is still on the same page as you embed your culture. I don’t take a single employee for granted,” the altruistic franchisee says, crediting her staff for their effort. She is awake to their often-tough backgrounds. “I would like them to use their time here to harness what they can achieve and to break the vicious social cycles that hinder their personal and professional growth.” Her education-focused community initiative, which works with the Department of Basic Education, follows similar principles. It has a network of primary schools in Katlehong, Thokoza and Vosloorus and touches the lives of 200 children each year. Portia transitioned to entrepreneurship from an illustrious career in banking where she ended on a high note as a Divisional Director. Her remit included debt financing for black economic empowerment, mergers and acquisitions financing in the Business Banking space, and franchise financing. “While I was in the franchise space [in 2004], I started working with big corporations like McDonald’s and Pick ’n Pay that had franchises, and I picked up insights.
I got to understand their business models,” she says. Already armed with an MBA and a degree in Industrial Chemical Engineering, she started planning her next move. “Parallel to that role and acquiring new skills, I had started getting this niggling feeling to do something on my own. I knew I didn’t want to be in the corporate world forever.” Portia sought an entrepreneurial path that would let her apply her corporate and academic skills while leveraging her personal strengths. “I wanted an established business since I am not a green-fields kind of entrepreneur. After a period of reflection, I figured that franchising would be perfect. I was familiar and comfortable with the McDonald’s brand and its values,” she explains. It took loads of determination to get in the door and to, eventually, get things moving in 2006. But first she gave up her cushy job, fat income and comfortable lifestyle. “I am grateful for the four years of financial pre-planning, this is what sustained me in the first years of growing and developing my business,” says the ever-scrupulous Nondo. You need to stop and check whether everyone on your team is still on the same page, as you embed your culture. I don’t take a single employee