Bushbuckridge business owner, Philson Nonyana, was an entrepreneur before he even knew that there was a word to define his flair for turning ideas into profit.
Philson started Izinga Decor (manufacturing and installation of concrete wall cladding and paving) in 2015, but his business drive showed up long before then. “I understood the concept of profit from a young age and it surprised many people,” he says. His first business was selling sweets in high school. Later on, he tried several other business ideas and, while they failed, the experience cemented his conviction that he wasn’t meant to be an employee.
His initial attempts at starting a business turned out to be a great learning curve. He realised the value of collaborating with like-minded people whose strengths complemented his weaknesses. Other valuable lessons he learnt were that you can always turn things around if you use what’s already available to you, and that hobbies can turn into flourishing enterprises.
“Ask yourself who can help you ensure that your vision materialises. For instance, Steve Wozniak was a computer hobbyist. Steve Jobs partnered up with him to start Apple. Jobs was more of a seller and visionary. So, if you are a Wozniak, find a Jobs, and vice versa,” Philson advises.
During this introspection, he noticed his neighbour Petros Chiloane’s hobby of making decorative bricks and this led to him starting Inzinga Decor. “I was smart but never good with my hands. I realised that I needed to build and nurture a partnership with someone who was good with his hands. Luckily, I already had a friend from high school, Nonika Maunye, who fit this profile.” The pair then collaborated with Petros to help them get the business off the ground. “We learned the process of manufacturing and installation from him. Our vision was that we build on that knowledge to get to a level that can multiply the impact, especially on employment creation.”
His vision paid off, and in 2017 Izinga Decor caught the attention of the SAB Foundation Tholoana Programme and was selected from more than 2 000 applications countrywide to participate in the programme to develop his business even further. Philson credits the Tholoana programme with teaching him the ins and outs of entrepreneurship. Since starting on that programme his revenue increased with a staggering 4 363% and the jobs created increased by 300%!
Philson says that while scaling the business is challenging, he is confident that Izinga Decor will grow. “Our goal is to employ more young people. And, as we grow and aim to trade in other provinces, our vision is to have a softer impact on the environment and limit our usage of concrete and other materials that are not good for the environment.”
Sezanele Zondi, his mentor on the Tholoana programme, says: “His biggest achievement was to grow the business from operating from his own backyard (informal) to a proper factory (formal) with proper manufacturing equipment. This resulted in growing revenue for the business; his confidence as an entrepreneur, and employment opportunities. Today, Philson is able to look for opportunities beyond what the business is currently offering, conduct due diligence on the market and make strategic business decisions to ensure that the business remains competitive and profitable.”
“The Tholoana team pushes you to grow and they keep you on your toes,” Philson says. “When you are part of the programme, you’re not just an entrepreneur because you can make a product and sell it. You’re an entrepreneur because you know how to plan, grow and sustain your business. The philosophy is holistic. They call it the ‘leaky bucket’ system. They get to know your business, spot the ‘leaks in your bucket’ and then assist in patching those leaks. After patching, your business is guaranteed to be propelled to a higher level than you’ve ever been. And if you happen to drop down, you will know exactly where to check and fix it again.”
Clearly, for Philson, this is just the beginning of greater things to come.
For more information about Izinga Decor, contact Philson Nonyana.
Find out more about the SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise programme here.