Gerold Keffers is proof that hard work, persistence, and self-belief — values he lives by — pay off. He went from working as a security guard at a winery to a driver at a wine tank manufacturing company, Velo SPA, where he rose to the rank of chief technician.
He started thinking about entrepreneurship in earnest after Velo SPA Cellar Equipment went out of business in 2013. “This opened a gap for technicians like myself to offer services directly to customers, but still I stayed with my employer as it was a very big step to take and I was still too young in the industry.”
He tested his business idea in 2015 on a work trip to Italy and registered Filtrospec in December 2015 after unsuccessful wage negotiations. He was confident that Filtrospec, which offers full-scale maintenance services to wine cellars and, was going to be a success because other than his experience and track record of working hard to beat the odds, the wine industry offers limitless opportunities. “The wine industry is one of the largest in our country and is growing at an enormous pace. There will always be a need for cellar maintenance.”
Unlike 13 years ago when he still worked as a driver, he now has more than hope on his side. He has expertise, and after taking part the SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Programme, he also has tools to help him run his business successfully, for instance, the value of digital marketing. The 18-month Tholoana 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.
“We established a website to make us visible to potential customers and expanded our services to the Eastern Cape and Gauteng. We are currently looking at the Northern Cape.” Filtrospec is also a registered vendor for the global beverage company, Distell.
He says moving with tech developments is another reason the company is growing.
“Our industry evolves on a daily basis and we have no choice but to adapt to new trends. SA wine cellars export huge quantities of wine all over the world and some of these international buyers have their own specifications that have to be met. This requires the use of more technologically advanced equipment.”
Mohamed Majapa, Gerold’s Tholoana mentor, admires his growth and agility. “There has been tremendous growth and maturity especially towards diversifying his customer base and geographical targeting. The business has withstood a period of severe water crisis that affected most of his Western province clientele. His decision to expand his offering towards other provinces allowed him to sustain his operation while growing new customers. He’s very quick to adjust to the market trends and is very involved in empowering young technicians.”
More than anything, it’s the value that he puts on customer services that has stood him in good stead. “We offer a 24/7 maintenance service to our customers. Cellars are always in operation, so we have to be ready for anything at any given time. I import and stock original parts not available in SA, from manufacturers in Italy, in order to service our customers’ needs whenever it is required, rather than having the customer wait for two to three weeks until parts arrive.”
He adds that trust and reliability are an important part of his business strategy. “To me, this is the best way of doing business. It keeps your customer happy at all times. This has also brought me in a lot of business as word of mouth is the best marketing tool in the wine industry. Wine makers move from cellar to cellar on a regular basis. If you please them, they will definitely spread the word.”
For more information about Filtrospec Wine and Equipment Services, contact Gerold Keffers at email@example.com or call him on 021 020 0657 / 081 703 8222 (cell).
For more information about the Tholoana Enterprise programme visit the SAB Foundation website.