South32 took a chance on us when nobody else was willing to listen

Gugu Msomi | REN Engineering

I am a partner in REN Engineering which offers mechanical-engineering services. Our competitive advantage lies in bringing cost-effective solutions to our clients and continuously looking for opportunities to reduce maintenance costs and equipment downtime. My expertise lies in Six Sigma (management techniques that are used to improve business processes) so my main objective is to improve our customers’ internal processes by employing lean problem-solving techniques to identify and eliminate waste, reduce defects and provide innovative solutions resulting in cost savings and process efficiency.

My husband once attended a Raizcorp Pitch & Polish workshop in Durban and brought me Lose the Business Plan by Allon Raiz which I read from cover to cover. We had just closed down a previous business and were looking for a new venture. The information in the book was so relevant to my business journey and the personal hurdles I had experienced so, when my business partners wanted to join the Raizcorp programme sponsored by South32, I didn’t take much convincing.

One of the ultimate and invaluable benefits of being on the South32 programme was the opportunity to get personal guiding. During these sessions, I was able to start the process of personal mastery through self-awareness. I gained a clearer understanding of the unique individual I am and learned about my strengths and limitations. This has assisted me in coping effectively with diverse life situations and observing the impact our patterns of thinking and behaviour have on our surroundings.

A major perk for the business was being surrounded by guides who have relevant skills and have travelled the entrepreneurial path. They are able to relate to the pressures of running a business to guide us through different business challenges. We started on a pre-incubation programme with a different business model and, through effective guiding, our vision became clearer. The programme has ensured that our business is built on a strong foundation.

When we started on the South32 programme, we had no existing business but, through the effective selling skills we learned, we were able to secure a three-year multi-million rand contract within our first year. We had a number of setbacks in 2018 but, despite this, we posted a turnover growth of 24% from the previous year. We have also grown from eight to 20 employees and in 2016 won the ZCCI Emerging Business of the Year award which boosted our confidence and improved our brand credibility.

We have recently acquired workshop equipment and vehicles as part of a financial grant from South32. This will put us in a position to undertake extra projects that we could not before. Last year we went through development, training and implementation of quality management systems, ISO 9001:2015 and SANS 18001:2011. This will not only provide a sound foundation for the business (leading to increased productivity and profit) but will also give our prospective and current customers’ assurance that our management systems are constantly assessed and approved which will definitely improve our customer acquisition and retention.

If an aspiring entrepreneur asked for my advice, I would tell them that, to achieve your goal, you have to make a mental commitment to be completely devoted to your business. This attitude will help in overcoming the obstacles and bumps that constantly arise along the entrepreneurial journey.

South32 played a crucial role in opening the first door to opportunity for our business. They took a chance on us when nobody else was willing to listen. They are still giving us ongoing support – even today – and for that we would like to express our sincerest gratitude. It is truly a demonstration of the care strategy they always talk about.

To Raizcorp, you are my second family. My programme has ended but our relationship will continue even beyond. You made my business journey enjoyable and the difficult times bearable. Being part of such a prestigious Prosperator (incubator) was truly an honour. I truly appreciate and value everything I have learned from you. It will forever remain a major contributor behind my success and achievement.