I grew up in East London in the Eastern Cape and studied electrical engineering at Tshwane University of Technology, finishing my diploma in 2004. I started my business because I didn’t want to work for someone, and I also believed I could make a difference in my community, Mdantsane, by becoming an employer. In 2007, I started Fobitech which offers electronic security services but I became tired of all the time on the road and wanted to do something that would keep me in one place – like manufacturing. I explored a lot of areas and thought that trailer manufacturing had potential. I did research on all the standards that must be followed and then did a year and a half of incubation with the Automotive Industry Development Centre EC (AIDCEC) who funding the factory space I needed and helped me to register with the SABS, NRCS and Department of Transport. (The factory is owned by the Eastern Cape Development Corporation.)
Our trailers are rugged and designed for Eastern Cape roads (I grew up here so I know what our roads are like) and also people tend to overload trailers. We make them as rugged as possible and over-specify on our material and components. We offer free licensing and security microdots, and a five-year warranty. We also do free services for the first 12 months.
My ENGEN Pitch & Polish experience was great and I still use most of the things I learned about business pitching. I learned that you need to come to business meetings and pitches prepared and that you need to practice what you are going to say. I also learned that you need to look people in the eye which was quite difficult because, as a black person, that is not a custom I’m used to. A big lesson I took away was not mixing my trailer and security businesses. Allon Raiz told me they needed to be separated because they were diluting each other and it really had become an admin nightmare. I have registered a new company for the trailers called AZANAN, after my three daughters, which is running in parallel to Fobitech. Now that I’ve done this, I can see things are moving more smoothly. I’ve also realised that I am technical minded so have started working with a qualified accountant to whom I may offer shares in the future.
During the semi-final workshops at Raizcorp’s offices in Sandton, I told Allon that I make, hire out and repair trailers and he asked me, “Are you a manufacturer or a retailer? You need to know what you are.” I thought about this and realised he was right. People don’t really want to own trailers, they want to hire them and so we are focusing more on hiring although we do still sell trailers to people across smaller towns in the Eastern Cape.
I would definitely recommend the ENGEN Pitch & Polish programme to other entrepreneurs. When I won the competition in 2018, I told them they need to bring it to East London because I could bring 200 people to attend. You learn so much in such a short period. In the few weeks I was on the programme I got five years of knowledge – that’s how good it is! The week I spent at Raizcorp was intense but you just want to get more and more.
Thank you to Engen and Nedbank for the opportunity. I fuel all my vehicles at Engen and my new business account for AZANAN Trailers is with Nedbank. As entrepreneurs, sometimes we don’t need cash; we need knowledge. Most businesses fail because people don’t know how to make money and the ins and outs of business. Engen and Nedbank are exposing entrepreneurs to mentorship with the likes of Raizcorp. Congratulations on the tenth anniversary of ENGEN Pitch & Polish. I hope it won’t be the last.