Her experiences as a businesswoman have helped Nomanda Ngcoya develop a thick skin, which she believes is needed for women who want to be in business. The founder of D Chem told Vutivi News she has taken the lessons she learned throughout her career and applied them to her business to ensure it was a success.
D Chem manufactures 25 products ranging from detergents including dishwashing liquid and bleach pine gel to cosmetic products such as perfumes and lotions for men and women. Ngcoya manufactures them in her own factory in Pietermaritzburg using machinery that can produce 20,000 litres of detergents.
Her business, which she launched in April 2017, employs two full-time staffers and four contract workers. She distributes her products to a Spar in Pietermaritzburg, hotels and restaurants in KwaZulu-Natal, and nationally via a courier service. Ngcoya, who is a chemist and is currently studying for a PhD in Chemistry at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, said her aim was to apply her knowledge practically.
“I wanted to focus on producing traditional medicine and package it in capsules, but because clinical trials take about 15 years, I decided to do something else in order to make money because I couldn’t wait for 15 years,” she told Vutivi News. “I started out with one detergent-making machine, and over the years I accrued more machinery until I was able to build my own factory. I used the money I received for a scholarship to fund my business, and before I could buy machinery, I used to use a nearby plant to make big orders.”
Ngcoya said that getting people to recognise her brand when she started out was difficult. Another issue was clients wanting to buy on credit. “A lot of people are loyal to the brands that they use,” she said. “People would also ask me to give them the product on credit. I did that and it…left me with R13,000 owed to me, and that is when I decided that I would no longer give credit.”
Ngcoya also said that applying for government funding proved to be futile. “I sent applications (to) different institutions of government, and I didn’t get a response, so I decided to stop applying for funding from government and instead get private funding.” However, she said the challenges were worth it when was able to open her own factory. Ngcoya said she had to learn to toughen up.
“I learned lessons from a company I founded before D Chem. I parted ways with my partners because of some financial disagreements,” she said. “I decided on a clean break and started D Chem. However, my company was almost taken over by some partners who saw how profitable it was. Luckily, I was able to get myself out of that situation due to the fact that I did not register them as directors, and could thus remove them from my company,” she said.
Ngcoya also said that being mentored had been of great help. ” I have a financial mentor, a business mentor, a technical support mentor and a life coach, and from these, I have learned a lot,” she said.
On her plans for the future, the businesswoman said: “We also plan to supply other countries in Africa in the next five years, and towards that end, we are currently registering our head office in Mauritius which is one of the countries that signed the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement.”
She said this would make exporting to Mauritius much easier as there was an interest in her products in that country.