Ekurhuleni businesswoman’s agility ensures survival
29 Aug 2020
By Simukele Ngema
When South Africa went into lockdown level five in March, a businesswoman who operates from Boksburg, in anticipation that her construction business would struggle to survive, decided to branch into the supply of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).
Nomthandazo Mpande (42) is the managing director of Phoki Consulting, a company that deals in energy efficiency, including installation of electrical metering forthe construction industry.
However, a week into lockdown, she started selling masks, sanitisers and hygiene products to her construction clients such as Matima Civil Constructionand Vicky’s Business Service.
Since then she has added other clients, mostly small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), as it became known that she had branched out into this service.
“PPE was the only product with guaranteed sales during Covid-19. We couldn’t let our employees down as they depend on my company for salaries in order to fulfil the basic needs such as school fees and rent,” says Mpande.
Isaac Serame, the managing director of BattzyEngineering Group, has known Mpande from when they were colleagues at Eskom between 2010 to 2014. They met again in 2019 as sole proprietorship entrepreneurs, and have been working together in various construction projects since.
During lockdown, they have been involved in the electrification of villages in Elliotdale, Eastern Cape.Serame says he enjoys working with Mpande because she has good ethics when it comes to professionalism.
“She is a strong woman of character and commands respect among her peers, mainly men. She is a dedicated individual who always wins.”
Another person who admires Mpande’s work ethic is her 16-year-old son, Junior. “I think [branching into supplying PPE] was a smart idea, because the demand was high in that time as it was the first week of lockdown,” says the grade 10 pupil.
Mpande, who has a physical disability, limping, is the founder of a non–profit organisation, Pan Disability Empowerment that runs projects aimed at empowering people with disabilities. This includes making sure that they have access to information, supporting entrepreneurs with disabilities and encouraging them to stay in business.
Mpande’s advice for all businesspeople during this coronavirus crisis is that:
“Covid-19 has so many opportunities as the new normal requires technology. Businesses need to spot the opportunities and diversify now before they lose [everything].”