The candidates at the inaugural Property Entrepreneur Accelerator (PROPreneurX) Programme graduation ceremony at the end of June were urged to use what they had learnt and the networks they had established to play their part in transforming and creating opportunities in what is a heavily monopolised property sector.

Kagiso Trust CEO, Mankodi Moitse. Photo by Kagiso Trust 

Kagiso Trust CEO, Mankodi Moitse. Photo by Kagiso Trust

The 24 graduates of PROPreneurX, a socio-economic development programme by Kagiso Trust in partnership with Motseng Investment Holdings and the South African Supplier Diversity Council (SASDC), were taught business development skills and capabilities over a six-month programme that will ensure their SMEs can thrive in the property value chain. Because of the restrictions of the pandemic, the first two cohorts of students, the 2020 and 2021 classes, had a joint, virtual graduation ceremony at the end of June.

They were lauded by the Deputy Minister of Public Works, Ms Noxolo Kiviet who said the programme “addresses inequality and unemployment” as it “produces more job creators than job seekers, enabling the historically disadvantaged to make strides into areas that were previously dominated by white males.

“These women and men are catalysts of economic transformation. Your effort, as much as it is in the property sector, contributes to the overall transformation of the economy. We need inclusive economic growth, to be part of growing the economy.”

The graduates own and run businesses across the property value chain, including architecture, construction, maintenance, water management, cleaning and hygiene, real estate, facilities management, fencing, heating, and cooling, electrical and carpentry. In a property sector that is worth an estimated R5.8-trillion, SMEs must work smarter, harder and use the power of collaboration to grow.

Dipuo Phakathi, a graduate from the first cohort, owner of Denic Cabinets which designs, manufactures, and installs cupboards mainly for the residential market, told the ceremony she learnt three important things during her six months on the programme: the value of strategy and skills, and, most importantly, collaboration.

“First thing I wanted to learn was how to be less operational and more strategic in my business, which was about two years old. I started it in 2017 as a side hustle but quite corporate to go into it full time in 2019. I was focussing more on checking products and people. I wanted to be more strategic, to see where I needed to place my business, who I needed to market to and speak to, to grow the business,” said Phakathi, who has now managed to secure contracts with Eskom, her big first corporate client.

“Collaboration is key. In the construction value chain, there are lots more people who come before me, like developers, builders, architects, etc. But there are also people who work at the same time as me, like plumbing and air-conditioning. I wanted to build a network of trusted suppliers I could go into projects with. Who better to refer to a client than the same people you have sat down in a classroom with and know? For me that was gold.”

Kagiso Trust CEO Mankodi Moitse called on the graduates to “to build organisations that will outgrow them, that will build this country. We believe in the power of partnerships and collaboration to empower our entrepreneurs. When we started this programme, we found that the property sector remained one of the least transformed sectors since the dawn of democracy. With official figures, released at the beginning of June, showing that 46% of our youth are unemployed, we see PROPreneurX creating employers who believe in the principle of ‘lift as you rise’. We believe the determination of our entrepreneurs will help diversify our economy and give opportunities to many, many more people.”

Delivering the partnership message at the ceremony, Ipeleng Mkhari, CEO of Motseng, quoted former Zambian president and the great African statesman Kenneth Kaunda, who passed away in June: “Ambition never comes to an end.”

“The birth of PROPreneurX had two objectives: promotion and access. One of the biggest obstacles to empowerment and small businesses is the high level of monopolisation in the South African economy. Our deliberate focus was on the growth of this sector so we can identify how to promote and, more importantly, allow entrepreneurs to thrive in a monopolistic environment.

“Access to opportunities, information, technology and relationships is fundamental to match promotion with growth. You cannot grow if you do not have access. Research has shown that once you begin to provide access for entrepreneurs to come into the mainstream, other marginalised and disadvantaged entrepreneurs following them benefit greatly just from enhancing diversity, inclusion, and innovation.

“We see SMEs as a very effective means of decentralising our economy and making sure that the generation of entrepreneurs to come is a different generation of leaders and businesspeople. We need to change from job creation to enterprise creation. What South Africa needs are ambitious, hard-working entrepreneurs who are focused on building things and not consuming things.”