Kasi business: Sky's the limit for Zulu's enterprise
Township entrepreneur Zulu Zulu's mastery in creating various designs from metal sheets has propelled him to become one of the most sought- after rainwater gutter installers in Gauteng.
Based in Orlando East, Soweto, Zulu's enterprise - Think Gutters - manufactures bespoke gutters from scratch and instals them as per customer specifications. They also do roof leaks sealing, water proofing and spray painting.
He told Sunday World's Kasi Business that he learnt the craft from his previous employer at Hydro Doors and Gates, where he was employed for 14 years.
"While working there I did garage doors, gate motors and roof leaks fixing on a part-time basis as my side job over the weekends to earn extra cash," said Zulu, 42, explaining how the famous Think Gutters business was started two years after resigning.
"I worked part-time for four years while saving money earned from the 'piece jobs' towards purchasing my own gutter-making machines.
"I invested a lot on the mobile gutter-manufacturing machine so I could work on site."
Zulu said the machines can cost up to R1-million. Initially, he had sought funding from organisations such as the National Youth Development Agency and the Department of Trade and Industry but to no avail.
His first machine was second hand, bought from his previous employer.
But Zulu said he still needed funding to purchase another machine for back-up.
Despite the mushrooming of competitors, Zulu is positive because his strength is in manufacturing, with the very opposition entities buying ready-made material from him. "The slice of the cake is so big, the business is booming as a result of the many housing projects in the country, but my worry is that 'chance-takers' are ruining the business.
"They overcharge and don't give clients good service.
"My other advantage is that I buy material in bulk. The more tonage I buy, the greater discount I get from suppliers."
Zulu's next huge task is to venture into the retail market to supply building material stockists Cash Build, Build It and Builders Warehouse, although he has made remarkable strides as a supplier to small hardware stores.
Think Gutters currently employs 12 people, from truck drivers to steel benders, installers and machine operating designers.
Zulu is also a hands-on boss, labouring with the rest of workers. "We are not making money yet, however the business is running comfortably."
He said although his biggest footprint was in Gauteng, his reach goes beyond the province and is gearing up to make his enterprise a national business.
Zulu is also giving back to his community by sponsoring a football tournament and is in talks with local councillors to turn the dilapidated Zithatheni Primary School in Orlando East into a skills development centre for the youth, most of whom are doing nothing.
"Our youngsters are into drugs and other illicit activities. They are idle.
"Some have become vagrants, we need to remedy the situation soon and I'm prepared to play my part in uplifting the community that has supported my business."
*Kasi Business is a new Sunday World feature focusing on successful and thriving businesses in the townships.