Lesiba Chuene’s success was based on big dreams and hard work, but they weren’t enough until a fortuitous blunder placed him in the spotlight of a creditor who engaged rather than penalized him.
When illness forced his father to take a step back in 2006, Chuene was faced with a very difficult decision: to continue his studies or to take over the running of the business. He chose the latter and began the long, often lonely journey of an entrepreneur.
Struggling to cope with the demands of running a business, Chuene did what many young entrepreneurs do and wrote a “bad cheque” for a purchase order on cement. Standard Bank saw his business potential, however, and instead of cutting him off, they suggested that he enter TechnoServe’s Business Plan competition with a huge incentive of R35 000 as the cash prize. Chuene entered and won. Proving his true entrepreneurial spirit, Chuene also went on to win the Richard Branson’s School of Entrepreneur’s business plan competition with an additional cash prize of R280 000. Using this cash injection, he purchased machinery to expand his business and today Chuene employs a total of 27 people, from an initial 13.
Operating under the motto “Building starts here”, Mogodi Bricks and Sands supplies all types of sand, concrete, stones and filler soil to a large region. They also manufacture cement bricks, including RDP maxi bricks, paving bricks, cement stock bricks, air bricks and window sills. His company supplies big businesses such as Cashbuild (8 regional stores) and provides mines bricks for underground walls and construction. Chuene says: “We recently won the tender to supply sand and stone for a huge construction of a brand new mall. This has had a spin-off for me to construct four townhouses in the same area. “The managers and staff of the new mall have to live somewhere and this is why we are building the townhouses. Who knows where this will lead to.”
Chuene represents a classic example of what is possible with rural entrepreneurs. A combination of ability to identify opportunities, a willingness to learn and adapt to new thinking, and a relentless determination to succeed, makes it possible to build scalable and sustainable businesses in our rural areas.
It is not enough to hope there is economic development in rural areas, it’s about catalysing and accelerating willing enterprising people. Chuene says that TechnoServe’s assistance has been invaluable: “It has opened up doors for me to network and through networking, I’ve formed business relationships and new business deals.” He says that attending TechnoServe’s workshop is also vitally important: “At the workshops you get to meet new investors and clients and they get to see your potential. You get connected and from this leads more business.”