Langa Nxumalo’s entrepreneurial ethos was established at an early age as he helped his parents in their Soweto tuck shop business, one of the many informal enterprises serving local community needs.
Energised by his ambition and supported by his family, Nxumalo achieved an electrical engineering degree and joined the corporate ranks of multinationals such as ArcelorMittal, Du Pont and Schneider Electric. Along the way Nxumalo realised that his ultimate dream was to create his own business and until the right time and opportunity coalesced, he would gain invaluable work experience first.
However it was his first-hand experience in the industry that enabled Nxumalo to identify the lag in turnkey solutions for electrical systems in South Africa. To bridge the shortfall, Ceracure (Pty) Ltd was created and his long-awaited calling to become an independent enterprise owner, and Managing Director, was realised.
In the early days of Ceracure, Nxumalo operated from his home base and found the shift from employee to entrepreneur a sequence of unanticipated roadblocks. His decision to look for office space was an auspicious one, as it led him to the doors of Shanduka Black Umbrellas and the Johannesburg incubator that would be instrumental in taking Ceracure from a start-up to a sustainable business.
“Shanduka Black Umbrellas was a major stepping stone,” says Langa, after discovering early on the hard lessons of starting a business without the kind of support that the SBU programme offers.
The steady discipline of setting the foundations for the business are critical and through the SBU programme of workshops, training and mentoring Nxumalo began to establish the financial and operational processes needed to leverage the business. He realised that with each new business phase, new challenges emerged, including access to finance and procurement opportunities.
“With the mentorship we received in SBU business incubation, we have managed to grow the business from zero revenue to the substantial revenue we have now.”
As Nxumalo admits, there were times when his dream faltered, and like every emerging business, the first two years are critical, with the highest failure and fallout rate during this time. “I was getting calls at a difficult time in the early days of the business when head hunters would call saying ‘we’ve got this organisation that wants to see you. It is a sure deal.’ And at the time the financials were really tough.”
However his wife urged him to see the tough times through rather than return to full-time employment. This was the turning point for Nxumalo who says, “That reassured me to be really committed to the business – as small as it was at the time.”“Staying committed to my cause. That is the major lesson of all that I have learnt.”