Jewellers keen to give golden touch

AS he carefully moulds a gold ring to perfection, Dan Singapi expresses concern about who will carry his rare skill forward.

Having "fallen in love" with the goldsmith trade at a young age – his late brother Peter introduced him to it – Singapi operates his business, Golden Touch Manufacturing Jewellers, in Uitenhage.

He is concerned about the jobless youth who are not offered the opportunity to learn the skill, especially among Africans.

"I would really love to teach young people how to practise this trade but not enough is being done by government institutions to help us," Singapi said.

His outspoken nephew, Mbulelo, who since his father Peter died in 2009 has been instrumental in running the jewellery store with his uncle, said he had approached several government and private funding institutions over the past four years with little success.

During this time Golden Touch was successful in securing funding for machinery worth just more than R300000 from the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda)as well as a smaller amount from the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) for jewellery-making accessories, such as gas and soldering materials.

This had helped keep the business afloat, but Mbulelo said his plans for Golden Touch were much bigger and he was unhappy that the funding institutions – both government and private lenders – kept on rejecting his requests for assistance.

"Dan has almost 30 years under his belt of practising this rare skill as a qualified goldsmith and has worked at some of the top jewellers in the region.

"We get asked almost on a daily basis by the youth for training. We have no choice but to send them away. We have no stock at the moment and cannot afford to train someone because it will be too expensive," Mbulelo said.

Through the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Mbulelo was introduced to new markets abroad and has travelled to several countries for business networking purposes.

On one such trip in 2012 he met up with a Chinese business partner, who wanted to buy jewellery from him worth R1-million. But the contract collapsed because he could not secure bridging finance in time to deliver on the order.

"Through the DTI some amazing doors have been opened up for me. I would love to pursue the African market and employ more people. Government funders are supposed to run towards us, but I have experienced the opposite," Mbulelo said.

Black Business Forum president Lithemba Singapi said small, medium and micro enterprises in the retail and manufacturing industry battled to access funding, and if they did get responses, their enterprises were mostly classed as "too risky".

ECDC spokeswoman Nopasika Mxunyelwa said: "Lately, the PE demand for loans has shifted towards mainly construction. ECDC has responded and provided loans where such businesses are viable."

Standard Bank head of small enterprises Ravi Govender said the most common reasons for funding for small businesses being declined included a poor credit history, lack of affordability and a lack of security.

First National Bank Business Banking head of credit Lee Bromfield said: "FNB predominantly looks to fund businesses which bank with FNB and have a good track record. However, we also consider those that do not bank with us, with a particular focus on a good risk profile, financial statements or a well thought-out business case."