In the face of failure, furniture maker Mduduzi Bhila managed to remain firm. Although the past few years have been fraught with hardships, Bhila believes that they have shaped him into a tenacious entrepreneur. Bhila, who is originally from Mpumalanga, obtained his degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Johannesburg.
However, work was hard to come by. “My cousin, who owned a furniture shop, hired me at that time,” he said. “I found myself enjoying the whole experience.” But family differences led to Bhila starting his own business in 2012 after realising there were many opportunities in the sector. “I started with nothing. My first client was an Italian businessman, who saw one of my social media posts. He asked me to make furniture for his whole house, and that is how I started the business,” he explained.
Essential Holdings and Interior specialises in all types of furniture and employs 10 people. Bhila has worked with businesses from across the country and outsources to other small businesses if he gets multiple orders at the same time. But during the harder lockdowns, it was a difficult period for the businessman. “I lost a lot of customers because businesses were closing and people were losing their jobs,” he said.
“Financially it was really strenuous, and we survived by selling our furniture for less because people could no longer afford furniture,” Bhila said he learned to be grateful during this time. “I learned to stop complaining and look for solutions when problems arise,” he said.
“I’ve also learned from the mistakes I made, and this has made me into a stronger businessperson.” And now Bhila plans on expanding to other areas of business. “I am planning on starting a car dealership this year in Mpumalanga. I am seeing an increased need for cars, as many professionals are flocking to the market for vehicles,” he told Vutivi News.
“I will start by selling second-hand cars and expand in the course of time,” Bhila said that he had learned the importance of having another business to help supplement his first business. “I encourage people who have jobs to consider having a side business because we cannot depend on one stream of income,” he said.
But while Bhila looks for new opportunities, making furniture will remain a part of his life. “I find myself fascinated by how one can use different types of wood, and my passion tends to show in my interactions with my customers,” he said.