Ntobeko Mabongo | Golden Bulb Electrical
During my teenage years, I liked fixing broken things at home – more specifically electrical appliances. I had no idea what I was doing or what I was looking for but kept on opening up irons, kettles, plugs, etc. to try to fix them. Some I managed to fix; others I caused more damage. It was not until I opened up a television set and got the shock of my life that I stopped messing around with appliances! But that is where my love for electrical engineering started. I went on to get my diploma in electrical engineering (heavy current) from Nelson Mandela University and then worked at a parastatal for three years.
Because I wasn’t really working in the electrical engineering field at my job, I resigned to start my own business in my hometown and make money while doing something I enjoyed and was passionate about. Golden Bulb Electrical started operating in June 2015 and I got my installation wireman’s licence in 2017. With the limited experience I had at that time, potential clients didn’t take me seriously so I decided to relocate to Port Elizabeth as there were more opportunities.
After getting work, I then had challenges with employees such as absenteeism on Mondays and over weekends when we were required to work overtime. Because I could not afford to employ qualified personnel in the beginning, I had to be on site supervising the work and ensuring my company built a good reputation with my existing clients in and around Port Elizabeth. I was on site from Monday to Friday, depending on deadline pressures, so I found myself not having the time to push for more sales. When each project was finished, I was left without work for three to six months at a time. As the company grew and I got more experienced employees and earned the trust of my clients, I got to leave the site more and began pushing sales and building systems to help my business grow.
I first heard about Raizcorp in 2016 at an expo in Johannesburg. When I arrived in Port Elizabeth, I contacted the Volkswagen Business Support Centre in Uitenhage which is run by Raizcorp and joined the Volkswagen business development programme in October 2016. The programme has given me three important things that will continuously help my business and me personally. The first is realising that I can achieve any target I set for myself. The second is how to make my company stand out by creating value for my clients which will also help me to dictate prices. The third is that money is only the end result of what the business does and that my focus should be on why we exist and why we do what we do. My mind has shifted from the way I used to see business to how business really works.
While being on the Volkswagen programme, my business has grown a lot. Between 2017 and 2019, the company has quadrupled its sales. Our employees have grown from three contract workers to 15 with one permanent employee. We have successfully completed the biggest contract we have ever worked on – a huge achievement for the business – and are looking forward to another big project. We are also busy with the final prototype of an innovative new overload-protection device we have developed and getting it ready for commercialisation.
My advice to any aspiring entrepreneur is to get to know yourself better; know your strengths and weaknesses. Also go into something you are passionate about and that you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life. If your business can align with what you are good at, it will help you through the tough times that all entrepreneurs go through. Also, remember you have no business without sales, so keep pushing those sales.
I would like to thank Volkswagen South Africa for sponsoring Golden Bulb Electrical on the programme. I wouldn’t have gained the knowledge about building and running my business successfully without your assistance. I would also like to thank Raizcorp for such a great programme. I didn’t have an idea of what it takes to run a successful business before I joined the programme and, luckily for me, I joined it just a year after I started operating. When I started, I was all about making money but as I embark on my final year, my mind has shifted towards focusing on purpose and making my business stand out from the rest. I know that the more value I create, the more money I make.
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