How does the idea of starting a business with zero capital sound to you? Crazy, isn’t it? Well, not to these two South African entrepreneurs who literally toiled in the dirt to establish their own construction company without having to raise a fat wad of cash.
Having overcome a myriad of difficulties which popped up at various stages of the journey, the duo has gone on to nurture the venture into a successful enterprise seven years down the line, and gobble up accolades in the process too.
Sihle Ndlela, 28, and Simphiwe Majozi, 29, are co-founders of Majozi Bros Construction; a fast-rising construction outfit that was established in 2012 in Durban, South Africa. The company is renowned for building houses in upmarket estates like Cotswold Downs and Zimbali, as well as overseeing a number of other multi-million developments in partnership with WBHO; a big name in the South African construction business.
For all the glitz and buzz currently trailing the duo and their thriving company, not very many people are aware that the business got off to a start in a most unusual and unlikely manner.
The year 2007 saw one of the co-founders, Ndlela, matriculate at George Campbell School of Technology where he had enrolled to pursue a BCom degree. But the excitement was short-lived. His father passed on three months after he begun the academic program and with nobody to support him, he was forced to drop out of school.
And so a life of roaming from place to place and fiddling with different ideas began. Ndlela’s first move after dropping out of school was to start a packaging business but that didn’t quite work out. Then he went into farming; cultivating beans, potatoes, and curry leaves. But that too died off before long because he didn’t really have any interest in it.
Sometime later, he got himself hitched with a beach vendor business after getting a tip from a cousin of his who sold drinks and snacks from a trolley at the beach. He got the supplier to give him stock to sell.
The job demanded that he travelled several kilometres by train and spend up to R 400.00 (USD 30.00) on transport monthly and he was basically ripping himself off by making the trip on a daily. So, he decided to stop going back home after work.
He would sleep in abandoned buildings and petrol stations after closing for the day – most times, late at night.
Ndlela eventually gave up on the beach vendor job when it became clear that he wasn’t going to make much off of the intermittent sales caused by the seasonal nature of beaches. He returned to uMlazi and started selling hot-dogs and slap-chips in a vending cart.
That was when he had an encounter with Murray Clarke who was conducting market research for his new venture, Chicken Xpress. The research team picked his brains on some things and they made it obvious as to how impressed they were with his knowledge of the businesses.
The encounter seemed to have ignited a flame of belief in himself and he made the decision to pursue his dreams from that moment onwards. Yet again, he gave up a vending cart. But this time, though, he was going after something he desired.
Ndlela had always been interested in the construction business but it always seemed out of his league. Since he didn’t have the means to go into mainstream construction, he decided to adopt a venture on the periphery by putting all his savings into making aluminium windows. And that was his first brush with the industry.
Little by little, the orders started to come in and Ndlela would ride public buses to deliver the windows since he didn’t have any other means. He also began to seek out contractors for opportunities to collaborate and that was when he met his partner, Simphiwe Majozi.
The duo hit it off instantly as it became clear that their ideas were in sync. Majozi had worked in his father’s ceiling business and was now taking building courses. Even though there wasn’t really much going on for either of them, both men shook hands and Major Bros Construction was born.
And then came the business end of things – doing the job, or at least, getting one. That was hard because no one was really big on the idea of handing a construction job to two ‘inexperienced’ individuals in their twenties. It was really hard to break in and the only way in was to find their own niche and tether themselves to it.
They identified an opportunity in townships where people had lived and moved out of but still wanted to build ideal homes for their families. In those places, professional contractors were rare, and they decided to explore.
Because they were both young and new in the business, they had to adopt a compromise by becoming contractors instead of full-fledged developers – that way, they would not really be handling the job onsite but would get in touch with the developers. That was when the first few projects started to come in, and they began to build on it.
But the progress was short-lived. The market soon dried up and the funds with it, and the duo found themselves staring down the barrel. As mere contractors, they weren’t really making much, the developers were the ones making a killing. And with no more business, it looked like they would have to pack up and close shop.
Both men knew that to cut it in the business, they would have to become developers themselves. So, as a last hurrah, they decided to go into property development, however difficult it was going to be. They were going down anywhere – it was either that or bust for them.
When they succeeded in getting an unlikely crack at it, they were anything but prepared. The company had managed to secure its first job which was the erection of a boundary wall. As they didn’t have the funds, they used the 30 percent deposit amounting to R 8.5 K (USD 510.00) which the client had tendered to buy two wheelbarrows and two spades.
Then they asked the workers they had recruited to bring their own tools. And that was how the project was completed.
They reinvested all the profits into the company and since that unlikely start, it has been an incredible journey.
The duo has gone on purchase pieces of land, develop properties and resell at a profit. Places like Zimbali and Simbithi Eco Estate hold testimonies of their work. Their cordial ties to WBHO have also seen them get an office on the premises of the firm and receive extensive on-the-job training.
Within a year of the collaboration with WBHO, they partnered the firm on the R 500 Mn (USD 36 Mn) Gateway Revamp Project. They are also a joint venture partner on the R 600 Mn (USD 44 Mn) Luxury Mixed-Use Umhlanga Arch Development.
Sihle Ndlela was named in last year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 and with his partner, Simphiwe Majozi, by his side, the company looks set to become a major property group in South Africa in the coming years.
Featured Image Courtesy: iol.co.za