Koukamma Quarry

Jackie Joseph, a former teacher, has always been an opportunist. Growing up in the small town of Humansdorp in the Eastern Cape made him realise that no matter how small or undeveloped a community is, it also has business opportunities.

Naturally, when a friend approached him with the idea of setting up a quarry mine in 2003, his first instinct was to sign up as a shareholder. These are the lessons he learnt along the way to becoming the founder and sole owner of Koukamma Quarry, which started operating in 2016.

1. Insist on being included in all processes

The first venture with his friend was a joint-venture BEE mining project that was worth millions, but they only walked away with R400 each after being swindled by the firm they partnered with. “We had the idea, but they had the technical knowledge and the equipment. We signed on as secondary partners and left processes, such as meetings and negotiating contracts, up to them. I knew that the project was worth millions, so I approached the project auditors and discovered that our financial statements were worth R25 million.” The discovery came too late. “They ran away with our money but I decided to leave that up to God.”

2. Never give up

It would have been easier to remain an educator, but he doubled down and kept looking for opportunities. He resigned from the Department of Education in 2008 to start working on a community project that earned royalties from leasing the land. The project was launched in 1999 but it was not until 2010 that business started booming. “The Soccer World Cup brought lot of tourist to the Tsitsikamma area. However, as things tend to go when politics are involved, there were too many bosses and the project started falling apart.”

3. Opportunity is when luck meets preparedness

“The government announced that it would embark in new building projects in 2013 to develop rural areas. It occurred to me that I should get my own mine.” He started by buying gravel and stones from farmers at R80 per tonne, which he sold to a construction company at R180 per tonne. The money was used to start the process of applying for a mining permit.

4. You need money, patience and emotional intelligence

Getting mineral rights took three years and more than R200 000; most of which came from his pension fund. “There will be many difficult times, but you should be ready. Do your homework and be mentally prepared because the process is draining, and you will get frustrated. However, it will also teach you patience, because you have to deal with people in a manner that makes them feel good.”

5. Hustle until something happens

He started 2016 with a permit but he didn’t have clients or any money left in his business bank account. “The forestry industry is thriving in our area. A company (MTO Forestry) had kilometre after kilometre of gravel road. I told them that I was a member of the community they were operating in and they eventually agreed to give me an order for gravel and other material used in construction.” The company also helped him with machines to scrape the material and drove it away with their own trucks. By the end of 2017, the company’s turnover was R3 million from working in the forestry industry and a contract with SANRAL. Most of the money, however, was used to rent crushing equipment. “The future looks good because there were many roads to build in the Eastern Cape.” He is currently in negotiations with SANRAL to get an opportunity to crush material in one of the bigger projects.”

6. Get support from experts

In his case, it’s from the SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Development programme. The 18-month programme offers intensive skills training workshops, face-to-face mentorship, and access to funds and markets. Entrepreneurs are upskilled in all aspects of running a successful business – from costing and pricing, marketing & PR, to financial management and human resources. “I can now work on my pricing on the spot, which has done wonders for my income.”
He used the R250 000 grant money he received from the Tholoana to buy a 3-tonne truck. “I’m looking for a digital scale that would help me to calculate the exact amount of material in the small loads that I supply to the community. People have RDP houses that they want to extend so they support me in a very big way. I supply them with sand and gravel.”

7. Don’t put your eggs in one basket

“Another benefit of being part of Tholoana is that each participant gets a mentor. Mine has taught me that it’s not wise to put all my eggs in one basket, so even though the future looks good for my mining, I’m going into poultry farming next year. We are going to supply eggs. Most importantly, I’m partnering with young entrepreneurs in the community.”

For more information about Koukamma Quarry, contact Jackie Joseph or call him on 083 258 9870.

For more information about the Tholoana Enterprise programme visit their website.