Seizing the moment pays off for friends

Cindy Preller

HAVING full-time jobs and families to support could have been enough of a deterrent for Craig Hutton and Owen Gouza not to start up their own business.

But you can’t keep a good business idea down, and the two friends knew they had a good plan that could work.

They took a chance, and, eight years later, the pair own a multimillion-rand medical transport company with contracts across the province.

Cinga Transport Services offers pathological specimen transportation, as well as transportation of medical supplies and waste.

Its clients include members of the East Cape Independent Practitioners’ Association in the northern areas and townships, as well as doctors in the western suburbs.

One of their biggest contracts, which gave them “a foot in the door”, came in 2008 from the National Health Laboratory Services. The company was contracted to provide medical transport services for clinics in the Cacadu District.

“Standing still was not an option for us,” Hutton, who is the company’s marketing manager, said.

“We registered our business in April 2005 and invested all our pension savings into starting the company.”

Gouza, who is the company’s chief executive, said their venture into business possibly had something to do with their upbringing and the fact that both their fathers possessed entrepreneurial savvy.

“We took a bold step [in establishing the company], but it was a matter of survival for me. We started without any real funding but we had the support of our families and wives and we prayed a lot.”

Hutton and Gouza were both working in private laboratories when they noticed that medical specimens were transported in ordinary parcels by making use of courier services.

From there, their idea of starting their own specialised medical transport company was born.

“We rented two cars and started in the northern areas and townships, with Dr Jeff Govender supporting us a lot in the beginning stages, as well as a petrol station owner who helped us with petrol. We had no formal training in how to run a business, but we had good mentors,” Gouza said.

Hutton said there were some months during which he and Gouza did not pay themselves salaries.

“We would only pay the staff. The bank told us that [it] could see we weren’t reckless with our money.

“Today, we own a multimillion-rand company, and, even if it takes another seven years, we will grow it by doing business with integrity and acquiring contracts honestly.”

For the first four years of the business, Hutton personally drove some of the medical waste transportation vehicles from 8am to 9pm every day, including weekends, while Gouza looked after the company’s finances and its general management.

“We now employ 10 full-time drivers, as well as several casuals, a secretary and a nurse. I started focusing on our marketing four years ago and also on expanding other business ideas, like the phlebotomy service we offer at the Famhealth Medipark in Gelvandale,” Hutton said.

Informally known as a “bleeding room”, a registered nurse, sister Gwendolene Jacobs, takes blood specimens for doctors at the centre and handles walk-ins from the public.

Gouza said this business venture, Cinga Phlebotomy Services, was not about making money but offering a service to the poorer communities in the northern areas.

“People do not have the money for transport to go to the hospitals in town for tests, and, with the phlebotomy service right here in Gelvandale, they do not have to anymore.

“We also outsource some transportation contracts to a co-op and believe in empowering the local community through job creation.”

Hutton said Cinga would not have been the success it is today without Gouza’s leadership skills.

The partners are considering going into a new business venture, in which the roles will be reversed, with Hutton the chief executive and Gouza the financial director.

The company, which will include other partners, will focus on recycling products and services in the medical waste management and agriculture industries.

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