#LearningCurve | Pair’s wonderful world of plastics
Bevans pool their skills to provide suppliers with the weird and conventional – from bike fittings to sewer parts
On the foundations of their careers in the aquarium and sales industries, Dave and Lynty Bevan have built a lucrative plastics business in North End.
As co-owners of DB Designs & Plastics, the husband-and-wife team pride themselves on manufacturing anything from sewer fittings to the weird and wonderful.
Lynty, can you give me some background on yourself and how and when the business was started?
We have both lived in Port Elizabeth for more than 30 years. Dave owned an aquarium shop and I was involved in sales.
Dave’s knowledge on water systems stems from his aquarium days and being a practical, hands-on person, with an ability to design and implement systems.
The opportunity arose to purchase some moulds and bends – and that is where it all started.
Dave started the business 20 years ago and we made it official in 2001 by registering and becoming VAT vendors.
I used to help him with the paperwork behind the scenes while holding down a full-time job, but he needed more assistance in the office so I finally joined him full-time two years ago.
Everything Dave has done in the business has been self-taught.
After spending 25 years in marketing and sales – and with the knowledge of quoting, sourcing products, invoicing and certain administration tasks – I have been able to add my bit to the business to make it more streamlined and efficient.
What is your core service?
We fabricate pressure fittings, plumbing, roofing and ducting fittings, and manufacture laboratory sinks and fume cabinets, to name a few.
We also fabricate rainwater and grey water fittings, and hope that the more educated the public becomes on saving every little drop of water, the more this will take off in the future.
We do get requests for some weird and wonderful items that we have been able to design and fabricate. We also do plastic welding repairs for motorbike parts.
What makes your business unique?
We offer unique items. We make all our fittings by hand, so they are not mass produced from a machine.
There are times when we do not have anything to go by other than a person’s description of what they require, and Dave has the ability to picture the end product and design and fabricate it to the customer’s requirements.
If someone wanted to copy your business model, how would they start?
They would be up against competition from various companies.
They would need to acquire tooling, training and skills in this field.
What are some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced before even getting off the ground?
Becoming known and trusted in the industry. It was also difficult to find reliable suppliers.
What are some of your biggest challenges in day-to-day business operations and your particular industry?
I think every business these days faces the challenge of our current economic climate.
Being competitive in the industry and working under pressure when there are time constraints on projects poses a challenge.
How do you measure success in your business?
When customers keep returning, it means we’re doing something right.
What are some of the best practices that have made your business successful?
Being able to sort out someone’s problem and resolve it through fabricated fittings.
Prompt service and good communication skills are important, as is taking pride in one’s work.
What kind of advertising do you do?
We have been very fortunate in that a lot of the business that comes our way is by word-of-mouth.
We have built up a good client base over the years and they have become regular customers.
We do have a Facebook page, but I am a bit technically challenged, so we don’t use it as much as we should.
Other advertising includes visiting potential customers to let them know what we can offer them, labelling our fabricated fittings with a sticker with our name and cell number, and listing our number in the Yellow Pages.
What is your company’s vision?
To continue to grow and expand our knowledge and skills, and educate people on the vast options available in plastic.
How many people do you employ?
We employ four people and operate from our workshop in North End.
Do you have any plans for expanding the business, and how would you go about this?
We are continuously looking at new tooling and possibilities in the plastic industry.
We would like to continue expanding the business by improving and developing new equipment and tools, thus being able to offer more fittings to the industry.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your business journey so far?
You have to stay positive even when times are tough.
What has been the greatest challenges and advantages of running your business in a city like Port Elizabeth?
Obtaining stock at short notice can be difficult, as it generally comes from Cape Town or Johannesburg if suppliers are out of stock.
On the other hand, word-of-mouth is a great advantage in a small town.
How important has mentorship been to you in your journey as entrepreneur?
It has been important to both of us.
Dave’s father, Bernard Bevan, had a plastic injection moulding factory which he started from scratch.
Dave used to work in the factory after school and on weekends, and learned a lot by being hands-on and watching how fittings were produced.
His dad was a fitter and turner by trade.
Dave studied tool-making at Ford Motor Company for five years prior to starting his aquarium shop, and his involvement with designing the filtration systems for the tanks enabled him to use this knowledge in the industry he is in today.
I learned everything I know about the business world, quoting and sales from my former boss, Leo Davis at Joe Davis Locksmiths, where I worked for 25 years.
What do you think are the three key traits of a successful entrepreneur?
Being attentive, flexible and willing to constantly learn new things.