Becoming an entrepreneur was no easy feat for Lungisani Zwane, who had the tenacity to try to build four businesses before he struck gold with Zebraah Paints in 2016.
He told Vutivi News that his previous attempts had not worked out because as an aspiring business owner, South Africa did not teach people how to make it on their own, as “there is no school of entrepreneurship, so we learn from experience”.
Zwane says his first attempts, which included a business registration service for SMMEs and a construction company, essentially failed because he entered into poor and unprofitable partnerships.
His story is not uncommon. A key concern in South Africa is the lack of knowledge and support to help build and prop up small sustainable businesses, which are punted as a backbone of the country’s economic rejuvenation and creating employment.
He decided to become a business owner when he left university because there was no money for him to complete his studies.
Zwane told Vutivi News that his father’s guidance was crucial in finally getting him into the paint business.
“Painting is part of our family and has been part of our family for many generations. My grandfather worked in the paint manufacturing sector, and
my father was introduced to the sector at the age of 18 as a paint technician,” he said.
Zwane, who is the youngest of four siblings and is from KwaMashu in KwaZulu-Natal, was fortunate enough that when he started Zebraah Paints, that his father was able told help him with his pension money.
He told Vutivi News that he approached his father about the painting business, his dad wholeheartedly supported him.
“I sat down with my father and discussed with him, and he agreed to enter into the business because of his extensive experience. He always believed in me so much, and at no stage did he ever view me as a failure,” he said.
“When I told him that I wanted to be an entrepreneur he threw his support behind me. Fortunately, he had the money and thanks to him the business got off the ground. My father said that since he provided the financial foundation, my job was to market the product and get customers.”
Zwane said that the business supplied paint to the surrounding neighbourhoods in KwaMashu, including Durban, and employed four people. In 2018, it moved from a garage to a bigger property.
“We manufacture house paint, which includes plaster prime, first and finishing coat, roof paint and paint that is used by artists.”
He said one of the most difficult obstacles has been entering the market.
“Our paint brand is not a big brand, so it’s quite difficult to convince someone to buy our products because it’s manufactured by a small township business,” he told Vutivi News.
“I remember an incident when a gentleman was contracted to renovate a government building. He came to me because he had previously used our paint and was familiar with our quality. He spent about R38,000 purchasing paint, but to our surprise, he was informed by the inspectors of the projects not to use our product simply because our brand is unknown.”
But this has not dampened Zwane’s spirit.
“We are seeing growth despite the current economic climate, we were able to retain all of our customers,” he said proudly.
“We also get recognition from other people, which shows us that we are definitely heading in the right direction.”