Thabang Shinners, 22, is a self-taught carpenter who sells foldable laptop tables and other wooden products after learning his craft by watching YouTube tutorials.
Shinners, from Rocklands in Bloemfontein in the Free State, owns carpentry business ThaPlanka.
He is also a third-year bachelor of computer information systems student at the University of the Free State.
During lockdown, when universities conducted lectures remotely, Shinners spent long hours on his bed listening to lessons online and writing assignments.
“I realised how much more convenient having a foldable laptop table would be. The birth of ThaPlanka started there,” he says.
"I decided that after writing exams, I would try to make one. I went on the internet to search for a circular saw and got one for R700.”
After realising that making laptop stands and other products could be turned into a business, Shinners watched woodwork tutorials on YouTube. In August 2020, he started taking orders for desks. His product range also includes coffee tables and cup holders.
“I saw this as an opportunity because many people were working from home and students were learning online,” says Shinners.
When he started, Shinners used the penetration pricing strategy to attract customers – initially selling his products at a lower price. After establishing his customer base he increased his prices to match his products’ value.
As he’s competing against major manufacturers, Shinners says he uses his art skills to colour his work. Customers can order the style and design they want, which makes his products unique.
While starting his business was not easy, Shinners was determined to succeed.
“When I started ThaPlanka I didn’t know how to operate a circular saw, angle grinder, jigsaw or other tools. I learnt how to operate them by watching tutorials online. I also created a table saw using an old door and circular saw,” says Shinners.
His advice to others hoping to follow in his footsteps is to start with any resources they have and use freely available online resources and learning sites to perfect their skills.
– This article was originally published in the GCIS Vuk'uzenzele