Writing on glass makes good business sense

2010-12-18 09:55

Msizi Ngwenya refused to become a victim of retrenchment after a glass-fitting company showed him the door four years ago.

He decided to open a business to fit windows, but gave up on the company after three years when it struggled to attract customers in sufficient numbers.

“One day when I was sitting at my business premises and waiting for customers, who were not ­coming, I started fooling around with a glass and a marker,” he says.

“I realised that it was easy to wipe off the marker from the glass.

“The business idea of manufacturing glass boards then struck me,” says Ngwenya, whose new business turns one year old next month.

Mabuya Glass Merchants is one of a few companies in the country that specialise in manufacturing white or colourless glass boards, which are mainly used by ­companies to write notes during meetings and workshops.

They can also be used in classrooms.

Ease of cleaning is the unique selling point for ­Ngwenya’s boards. A permanent marker, for instance, can easily be wiped off the glass board with a damp cloth – this is ­difficult on a plastic white board.

This week, a relaxed but still ­ambitious Ngwenya said he had ­already installed more than 1 000 glass boards in Gauteng.

Ngwenya has supplied the glass boards to clients including tile manufacturer Vitro, general ­retailer Massmart Holdings, furniture supplier Prima Doors and ­financial journal Dow Jones.

“The business could stay up to six months without securing new work,” says Ngwenya without ­providing details on the company’s finances.

Business did not always look this promising for Ngwenya.

“At the start, when I approached banks and state-owned financiers, I was told that I would receive ­funding only if I had surety and did my business plan through consultants,” he says.

“I ended up using my savings and money borrowed from friends to buy raw materials for the ­business.”

There were instances where he won contracts but did not have enough money to buy the raw ­materials.

“One example is when I received an order for my first assignment. At that time, I did not have enough money to buy raw materials to make the white boards,” he says.

Fortunately, a friend leapt to ­Ngwenya’s assistance by giving him a R10 000 loan.

He used the money to purchase the raw materials and delivered his first assignment successfully.

After receiving the customer’s cheque, Ngwenya returned his friend’s money and decided to ­invest the ­remainder into his business.

One year later, the business is growing and Ngwenya is getting more work through ­referrals.

“There are businesses in Durban and Cape Town that have ­expressed an interest in the glass boards,” he says.

“Unfortunately, I’ve had to tell them that my business is only ­operating in Gauteng at the ­moment.”

Ngwenya is now investigating the possibility of expanding his business to include manufacturing markers.

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