#LearningCurve: Building a brighter future for all

Driven woman behind success of Bahlaseli Project Development making inroads in man’s world of construction

From the tender age of nine, Anelisa Fete, 30, had been bitten by the entrepreneurship bug, and sold sweets and fruit to make some extra pocket money.

Fast-forward 21 years and Fete is the woman behind an up-and-coming, yet reputable construction company in Port Elizabeth.

Even though she tried her hand at retail, selling imported clothes from China, before temporarily settling into an administrative job, Fete could not shake off the desire to be her own boss.

In an industry where opportunities for women are few and far between, Fete broke into the sector in 2010 when she registered her small, medium and micro-enterprise (SMME), Bahlaseli Project Development.

What is your core service?

Civil engineering, structural engineering, project management, transport management, housing and property management. We also provide social facilitation, community liaison services, consulting services and security services.

What made you venture into this type of service industry?

It was mostly because I wanted to make a living while creating jobs for others. The construction industry is a significant contributor to employment and growth in South Africa. I was also driven by insightful impact on our daily lives – the buildings we live and work in, the roads and bridges we drive on, the utility distributions system we use, and the railways, airports and harbours we travel from are all products of this vital industry. Investing in construction not only supports domestic economic growth and job creation, but also contributes to the creation of wealth for generations to come.

Describe how your business came about/how you became involved in entrepreneurship?

As a university student, I sold cigarettes on the side to make ends meet. After completing my diploma in 2009, I worked as an administrator. However, it was after the death of my mother that I realised I had to find ways to support my son and my two siblings, so I started to sell clothes and saved enough money to travel to China to get my stock there, In 2015, I grew tired of working with no security and decided to focus all my energy and time on my business as I had seen a gap in construction for women and young people, and I’ve never looked back.

What makes your business unique?

My good communication skills with stakeholders, as well as hard work, an excellent team and commitment.

What are some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced before even getting off the ground?

A lack of working capital is the major constraint at start-up. And the lack of investment funds also becomes a more important factor to deal with as time passes.

Any tips for budding entrepreneurs or new business owners?

Commitment, hard work and determination.

What are some of the biggest challenges in running the day-to-day side of the business? Capital is the biggest challenge and lack of exposure to information that can help your business.

What are the some of the best practices that have made your business successful?

Impeccable time management and making sure I do everything on my diary for the day. And if I am not able to get to it, I make sure it is done the next day.

How did you decide on pricing?

The industry has standard rates and regulations that you have to keep abreast of. You cannot price randomly – you either stick with that price or price down to make your business more appealing.

What is your company’s vision?

To establish itself as a leading SMME within the field of construction and security services.

What is your target market?

Government departments – provincial and national – and the private sector.

What are some of your highlights in running your business?

When there is no capital at times but there is a project, and you manage and deliver successfully with the tremendous support from family – to me that is my everyday success story.