From township garage to successful business

While Hashtag Aluminium is not a band, the youth-owned construction company was started in the garage of a Kwazakhele home.
And despite these humble beginnings, two Port Elizabeth entrepreneurs have managed to grow their business and make their mark in the local construction industry.
Hashtag Aluminium coowner Samkelo Qokolwane, 29, said while there was much more room for growth, he and his partner, Sigqibo Pakade, 32, were proud to have been able to relocate their operations from the township setting.
The company is now situated in North End.
Hashtag Aluminium has been recognised as one of the stand-out businesses to be trained by the Volkswagen Business Support Centre in Uitenhage.
The centre, which is managed by business incubator Raizcorp, was started in 2011 and has trained and upskilled more than 60 entrepreneurs.
Before joining VW’s programme, Qokolwane said the business was operating without managerial knowledge in core functional areas – finance, marketing and production.
“The programme assisted us in many aspects of our business,” he said.
“Before, we had no concept of budgeting. Come end of the month, we would thumb-suck our bills.
“And every month we would be surprised by the high overhead costs.”
Now in their second year of the three-year course, Qokolwane said Hashtag Aluminium was definitely running more efficiently.
Since starting in 2014, the company has worked on numerous projects across the Eastern Cape, offering an array of aluminium products, including window frames, doorframes and gates.
“One of our recent big projects was in Cape St Francis where we contributed to the building of a library.
“We’ve done many houses in Mthatha and Kokstad and all along the Eastern Cape.
“We’ve come to learn how to approach clients and customers.
“Our marketing skills have improved and now we can better interact with other people and businesses in the industry.
“They didn’t help us financially, but the motivation we received from the business centre and the encouragement and the training has helped us to grow and develop as entrepreneurs,” Qokolwane said.
VW community trust manager Vernon Naidoo said entrepreneurs go through a rigorous application process before they are selected for the programme at the business centre.
The applicants must already be running a business and should have a monthly turnover of at least R10,000.
They are then interviewed by various panels before they are selected.
“We want to develop entrepreneurs who are not going to give up when times get tough.
“VW wants to develop businesses who can give back to the value chain of the automotive industry,” Naidoo said.
“The entrepreneurs attend weekly classes and there are also mentors who give them guidance on a regular basis.”
Naidoo said VW did not provide the businesses with funding.
“We pay Raizcorp to assist with the intervention. So those on the programme pay a minimum monthly fee of between R200 and R300,” he said.
“We provide them with necessary business-related assistance, networking sessions and we pay their subscription fees with the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber.”
According to VW, Hashtag Aluminium is now the first youth-owned aluminium construction company in the Eastern Cape certified to issue glazing certificates.
The Association of Architectural Aluminium Manufacturers of SA, with which Hashtag Aluminium is now registered, said: “We’ve registered them for electronic certification.
“So if they instal aluminium windows for a particular housing project, for example, they can issue a South African Glass and Glazing Association certificate for occupancy purposes.
“The glazing certificate would go with the electrical and plumbing certificates and the documentation that authorise occupation.”
The aluminium construction company employs six people at present, but the owners hope to expand the business to create more jobs and contribute to the development of the city.
“We want to purchase more machinery so that we can increase our capacity and expand our reach across the country.
“There is much potential here in Nelson Mandela Bay and in the Eastern Cape.
“With Coega being here, and the opportunities for infrastructure development, it means there is much room for us to grow,” Qokolwane said.
He said Port Elizabeth was similar to what Johannesburg was years ago, with plenty of potential to grow.
“Up-and-coming businesses [in Johannesburg] at that time are now corporate giants. As this city grows, so can we.”..

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