The winner of the Eskom Development Foundation’s Business Investment Competition in 2020 has urged SMMEs to apply this year, saying that it helped her business survive during the Covid-19 pandemic. Mampho Sotshongaye said not only did it save her construction company, Golden Reward 1981 CC, but she was able to retain more than 50 employees at a time when many people were losing their jobs.
“The winnings assisted us a lot and it helped us buy much-needed equipment, ensuring that we remain in operation,” she said. “Our sector depends on being on-site and being physically present during the work… we could not work remotely and as a result, many households went for months without salaries.” Based in Cape Town, Sotshongaye told Vutivi News that she was introduced to the construction sector in 2004 when she was employed in the government’s Expanded Public Works Programme.
She then received an opportunity to work as a construction manager in 2006 before registering her business in 2010 and throwing herself into it fully in 2012. “I’m from the rural areas where living there is a nightmare because residents cannot access services or… travel to clinics due to a lack of transport and roads,” Sotshongaye said.
When she started out, she had 76 skilled and unskilled employees. However, because of the pandemic, she had to lay off employees. She also could not provide internships to university graduates, which she had been doing since opening her company. Sotshongaye said that she first heard of the competition in 2016 and applied. “However, I was discouraged from continuing as I was wearing many hats in the company,” she said.
“However, Covid-19 forced me to focus fully on the process of applying and so I completed the application.” The application process included submitting company documents, paperwork and being honest. “A lot of applicants are not transparent and sometimes they even lie on their application and this reduces their chances of winning,” she said. Sotshongaye said that winning the competition also meant she was able to continue with her internship programme.
“I truly believe that interns need to be given experience (and) opportunities so that they can get employment as well,” she said. The Business Investment Competition, which is in its 13th consecutive year, is for businesses in engineering, construction, manufacturing, agriculture, trade and services. They must have been operating for at least 24 months.
The overall winner receives R300,000 and winners in each sector get R131,250. The second and third runners-up receive R75,000 and R50,000. Eskom Development Foundation CEO Cecil Ramonotsi said successful entrants participated in workshops through its Business Connect workshops.
“We also build their capacity with business skills to help them navigate the challenging economic terrain that the pandemic created,” he said. Businesses can register at www.eskombic2021.co.za and have until 30 October to do so.