Ronnie building an empire - Vetkoek lady fuels a young man to chase a dream
He has always been inspired by elderly women selling braaied mielies or vetkoeks in the scotching sun or on cold winter mornings.
That's the story of Fhumulani Ronnie Nemukula, whose "one-stop-shop" building construction and maintenance start-up, Ronem Maintenance Solutions, is less than a year old but making inroads in the construction space.
"I was inspired by this elderly woman in 2005. She told me that with the little money she made from selling vetkoeks, she was able to pay for her two boys through university - one is a medical doctor and the other a lawyer. That's when I realised it's serious business," Nemukula said.
But it was only early last year that the 36-year-old, now managing director of his enterprise, quit his job and registered his company in June 2016.
His journey started in the construction industry after a number of internships and later being employed by large hotel and casino chain groups Emperors Palace, Melrose Arch Hotel, Tsogo Sun in Nelspruit and later Old Mutual, doing maintenance work.
"I come from an electrical engineering background. So I've been playing in the property and construction space since graduating in 2004. My hands-on work experience has empowered me with the skills and knowledge I have," he said.
Although Nemukula has a footprint that stretches from Nelspruit in Mpumalanga to Gauteng and Limpopo, including his former employers Tsogo Sun's Emnotweni Casino, his business has not been without challenges.
"I had to master how to run and manage the business - the legal side of things, the financials, human resources and all. It was not easy."
Fortunately for Nemukula, he has his wife, a BCom graduate, on his side and his brother, who has a diploma in management.
"We all share the vision to make Ronem a leading property development business. I went for the Tsogo Sun mentorship and an entrepreneurship programme to empower myself on how to run a business."
Nemukula said he never sought financial assistance. He said he resented going into partnerships or outsourcing as this would have stolen his little history of having built his empire. Of his 21 part-time employees, he said he made it his duty to employ women on site alongside their male counterparts and not in the office.