By: Tebogo Mokwena
When Thandi Mkhonza discovered the benefits of precast concrete, she made it her mission to prove that it was more than just a replacement for shacks. She also set out on an entrepreneurial journey to convince the government to adopt precast concrete for their temporary buildings, and she believes that she still has a long way to go. However, through her business, Prospero SA, she is getting there.
According to Mkhonza, her business came into existence almost accidentally. “I actually overheard my father having a conversation with a friend of his about the possibility of building houses with precast and the conversation piqued my interest,” she told Vutivi News. “I had no background in construction. In fact, I had worked in the banking sector for six years. However, I was determined to explore this sector because I really believed that I was onto something.”
But Mkhonza discovered that starting the business cost a lot of money, more money than she had. “It was expensive to conduct the research, and it was even difficult to convince people to believe in my vision,” she said. “When we started the business in 2017, we did not have money to purchase the equipment. “We were able to receive equipment and non-financial assistance from the Small Enterprise Development Agency in 2019, and the following year they also provided us with moulds for precast that looks like bricks.”
Prospero was then able to start building structures for homes, churches, storerooms, offices and even man caves in Gauteng. However, the business took a knock during the Covid-19 pandemic as some of its equipment was stolen. “At that time, a lot of churches had already paid deposits for projects, but we couldn’t deliver so we fell into debt due to using some of that money to employ security companies to protect our premises.” Mkhonza told Vutivi News.
“We even stopped operating for a year after that, and I went to look for a job.” However, the entrepreneur did not last long at her job and decided to give her business another go. “I could not let go of my dream,” she said. “Precast is a unique material, and besides that, I am also a problem solver.” Mkhonza does not regret her decision as her business is slowly picking up in Gauteng.
She said that she had also received many calls from those affected by floods in KwaZulu-Natal and was looking to expand to that province. “I want to teach women in rural areas and in other provinces to be able to do the same, and teach them the tricks of the trade,” Mkhonza told Vutivi News.