After graduating as a sound engineer in 2006, Mpumalanga native Given Ngwamba struggled to find work until an idea struck him during a braai. He looked at the packet of briquettes and was sold on the idea of making his own. Ngwamba, who is the owner of Ndzilo Charcoal briquettes in Naas, Mpumalanga, told Vutivi News that because he was an entrepreneur, he could not wait for someone to provide him with a job.
So, he started making his own charcoal in 2019 and looking at supplying a large retailer across the province. “I tried to come up with an online radio station, but I soon learned that it was not easy to make money because data is expensive for rural area residents,” he said. “I did research and realised that charcoal that is made traditionally is not efficient, and I sought after an efficient way to make charcoal.”
He experimented with different types of waste, combining them until he got the desired results. Ngwamba’s doughnut-shaped charcoal produces lighter smoke compared to charcoal made from wood. He uses ground nuts, waste from banana trees, mango trees and corn stalks with his team of three employees. He told Vutivi News that even his five coal-making machines, which he uses to produce one to two tons of charcoal at a go, had to be built from scratch.
“I met a welder and we put our heads together to make these machines,” the entrepreneur said. “My reason behind this was because I did not have money to buy machines, and I had no desire to wait for funding.” In less than a year after he started his company, Ngwamba managed to secure a distribution deal with Pick n Pay in Komazi in Mpumalanga, and he was currently working on a deal to supply other outlets in the province.
“We approached them, gave them a presentation and after that they gave us the green light,” he said. “People have a perception that making such deals with retail outlets like Pick n Pay is scary and that it is outside of their realm of possibilities. “I can compare this to when you meet someone that appears intimidating, only to find out that this person is the kindest person you’ve met. The same applies to these large retailers. They are always willing to give you a chance as long as you believe in your product and its chances of success,” Ngwamba said.
Since starting his journey, the businessman has mastered a few lessons. “I learned that time is very important. I also learned that if you are patient, humble and faithful to your cause anything is possible,” he said.
“I also learned never to let success get to your head, and never to burn bridges.”