Small Can Be Big


Thabo Ntswane is one of those entrepreneurs whose development inspires and excites those who know him. Just a year ago, he was one of 48 entrepreneurs selected from approximately 2000 applicants from around the country to participate in the 2016 SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Programme. This high energy entrepreneur from Polokwane, Limpopo had a positive attitude and can-do spirit that attracted the attention of the selectors. Thabo Equipment & Tool Hire was clearly a business with good potential for sustainable success.

Since he started working the programme, Thabo consulted with his mentor, Anna Harris-Stone, choosing to pay keen attention to the details of his business plan. Very quickly, he discovered a dead zone in his business day. After customers had collected the tools they needed for their building projects first thing in the morning, his day stretched out emptily until the evening, when the hired items were returned. Thabo was, to coin a phrase, all dressed up with nowhere to go. How could he use his time and resources to good effect?

Thabo spotted a gap in the local Wendy house market. There was only one supplier of prefabricated dwellings in the area, and a clear need for inexpensive dwellings, tool sheds, saloons. It was a risk to step out into a new direction, but it soon paid off. After doing his sums, he figured that he could provide Wendy houses at a competitive price. His mentor said, “Developing a new income stream took quite some initiative but Thabo’s a go-getter, always looking for opportunities in places where others don’t look. A good entrepreneur has to take calculated risks from time to time. This he has now done. He only gets material when he has an order, so he isn’t sitting with lots of stock.”

As it so happens, this new aspect of his business is growing happily. To celebrate his good fortune, Thabo responded to the national call to spend 67 minutes building the country in honour of the late Nelson Mandela by donating one of his Wendy houses. He heard of a local creche that needed another classroom, and on Madiba Day he joined his employees, Phineas Raphela and Tizai Tafirenyika, in a 67 minute dash to erect the Wendy house. Phineas and Tizai were so inspired by Thabo that they chose to donate 25% of their July salary to the creche.

“It’s inspiring to see a small entrepreneur with a big heart,” said Fetola senior mentor, Anton Ressel. “Hats off to these three gentlemen who are doing their #CountryDuty! When a small entrepreneur thinks like a big one, there is every likelihood that the old ‘go big or go home!’ maxim applies. Watch this space…”



Liesl Jobson is an writer, photographer and musician. Formerly a consulting editor of Books LIVE, she is now Fetola’s media co-ordinator. She is the author of Ride the Tortoise100 Papers, (which was translated into Italian as Cento strappi) and View from an Escalator as well as three Book Dash children’s books. She enjoys promoting the success of the small business entrepreneurs who make South Africa work.