Set reasonable and affordable targets
If at first you don't succeed, try and try again. Or in the case of Xolisa Tom, five times.
Perseverance paid off and now Tom, who is from Port Elizabeth, is the owner of a tyre fitment centre.
As an entrepreneur, I have tried to start a lot of different businesses because I have never wanted to work for someone else
“As an entrepreneur, I have tried to start a lot of different businesses because I have never wanted to work for someone else. The idea to start my own tyre fitment centre was my fifth try!”
In between, Tom, 42, studied all sorts of industries. His aim was to have a business in the township.
“I decided to study which markets had not already been flooded. I identified tyre fitment because there was only one professional tyre place in the township. All the other tyre places are informal vendors who use manual tools.”
The challenge was getting the necessary funds. Being a cooking fanatic, he considered starting a mobile food truck business instead because it would have been cheaper to start than a fitment centre. In 2018, he approached the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) for funding.
“They told me straight the idea was exhausted, but asked me if I had any other business ideas. I said yes but it was big and I would need a lot of money. When I explained, the guy from Seda said, 'Now you’re talking!'
“He told me they had a grant programme and explained what I needed to do to apply. The urgent part was that the applications were closing in six days. With help from people in my network, I got a professional plan and all the required documents together just in time.”
In July last year, Tom received a letter saying he would be funded for machinery. However, 10% of Seda's contribution had to come from him as a sign of his commitment to the business.
“One of my friends lent me the money and I am paying him back in instalments. Another challenge was with the premises I initially wanted to use. The owner told me he had other plans so I had to find somewhere else.”
Tom found a place, but it was dilapidated and in need of renovation. It took six months before the machines could be installed. Tom Tyre's, which employs four permanent staff and two part-time, eventually started operating — just four days before the Covid-19 lockdown.
“I think it was God’s plan because I hadn’t wanted to open at full capacity while my staff and I learned how to operate the machines. We applied for an essential services permit in the third week of lockdown and started working, one car at a time. Now we are going full blast.”
An important aspect in his journey to finally having his own business was gaining the necessary knowledge.
“When a friend told me about the Volkswagen Business Development Centre programme powered by Raizcorp, I applied to join and started in April 2019. The programme, and what I am learning, is exactly what I needed.
There are so many things that can be destructive in business. The programme has played a massive role in helping me take on difficult situations
“My 'business IQ' was not there so I had to learn some business 'academics', discipline and know-how on how to do things professionally. There are so many things that can be destructive in business. The programme has played a massive role in helping me take on difficult situations.
“I am so overwhelmed by my sponsorship on the programme by Volkswagen SA. I appreciate it with all my heart. Raizcorp, you are my hero. The programme is real and full of learning. I wish more companies would support initiatives like this.”
Tom's advice to entrepreneurs is to set reasonable — and affordable — dreams and targets.
“Start with what you have today and think about what you need to do tomorrow.”
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