Blooming landscaper sets sights on Cape expansion

2008-01-22 00:00

An intense passion for nature and landscaping and a constant desire to learn more about these subjects have contributed enormously to the personal and professional development of Pietermaritzburg-based entrepreneur Thobani Thabethe.

Thabethe, who was recently nominated for the Emergent Black Businessperson of the Year award in the 2007 Nedbank Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB) Business Awards, owns Thabethe Landscape Designers — a business he established about eight years ago.

"I used to grow plants in our backyard while I was still in high school. I was influenced by my grandmother, who was a subsistence farmer. Furthermore, my father was a lab assistant at the botany department of the [then] University of Natal. I would visit his workplace and my love for plants just kept on growing," he said.

The link with nature continued well into Thabethe’s youth and he secured a job at Spoornet (Durban) in the environmental department shortly after completing matric.

After he started his studies in Horticulture, well-known landscaper Jo-Anne Hilliar took him under her wing and a partnership called Thabjo was formed.

After learning valuable lessons from Hilliar, Thabethe established his business, with scant resources. "I started with nothing, not even a car. I began by servicing local doctors’ rooms in the CBD, taking care of indoor plants. I used to travel by minibus taxi," Thabethe recalled.

His big break came in the form of a contract to service Spoornet in Durban. This enabled him to buy his first vehicle and employ staff members.

Over the past few years, Thabethe’s client base has grown and includes the likes of the Umgungundlovu FET College and Umgeni Water. He has also had the opportunity to present a television show — Gardenx — on SABC 2’s Momepe.

His message to budding businesspeople is clear and to the point: "Don’t wait too long for the money to come through — try to get started with whatever you have".

Thabethe Landscape Designers now offer a number of services, including:

o environmental rehabilitation;

o impact assessments;

o drawing up and implementation of garden plans;

o specialised maintenance;

o general care (cutting, pruning, etcetera).

While Thabethe plans to strengthen his local business, his sights extend to Cape Town, where he would like to expand. He would also like to grow his indigenous nursery at Elandskop, which he started at the age of 16.

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