When Ntombizanele Matome fell pregnant in Grade 11, she made a promise to her mother that she would still make something of herself.
After the Rustenburg-born woman gave birth to her son in July of her matric year, she found a part-time job at a doctor’s practice as a receptionist, which paid R750 a month.
Cleaning the surgery and making appointments for patients allowed her to provide for her baby. She kept going to school and, with her family’s support, matriculated with a Bachelor’s pass and enrolled at university the following year.
But after two years at Rand Afrikaans University (now the University of Johannesburg), she dropped out to start a civil construction company with her sister when she was just 21.
After two years of battling to secure contracts, she looked for a job and landed one at Sasol, where she worked in the procurement department for another two years. She resigned in 2004, but during her time there, met her husband, a chemical engineer.
Today Matome (34) is the proud business owner of Basadi Underground Contractors (Pty) Ltd, and the boss of 13 employees.
As a young black woman growing up in apartheid South Africa, Matome speaks of her journey to becoming a business owner and how she managed to break the mould.
“I am an avid reader, so I told myself that circumstances were not going to control where I’m going in life. My role model is my late father. We didn’t grow up in a rich environment, but he instilled in us a sense of pride as an African in the sense that you can do anything.
“He taught us how to play chess, which made us see that there’s always another way to get around things ... We knew that the sky was the limit. He really inspired us.”
Matome’s company specialises in offering support and logistical services to the mining industry, especially the platinum mines in and around Rustenburg. Her company was established in 2008 as a close corporation, but in 2010 she converted it to a proprietorship. The name Basadi, meaning women, has personal significance for Matome. She believes there are not enough female entrepreneurs and that it’s difficult, particularly for black women, to make it in mining.
“I faced many challenges. There was lack of funding and opportunities. You go to those mines, you are black and you are female. There was plenty of discrimination. I even get it from my own employees sometimes. Now that I’m married, they prefer to speak to my husband when they want increases, not realising I’m the one who is running the company,” she laughs.
Matome has learnt how to navigate the tough mining business.
“It has its ups and downs. You must be prepared. When there were those platinum strikes, my company went under. It is out of your control. You get paid for the job you have done. I decided to diversify so that when the strikes happen next time, I am able to provide other services. I am an entrepreneur so I have to think out of the box.”
Matome needed funding for a contract and approached the IDC, which approved a R1.7 million loan. She used the loan for equipment and working capital. The low interest rates offered by the IDC are really helpful, she says.
“The IDC has workshops where you get assistance and mentorship, so they are really great at giving advice. After I submitted my business plan and they did a due diligence, it was about three months before I received my funding. It depends on the complexity of your project though, because I have friends who are still waiting for their funding to come through.”
Matome’s plans include growing her human capital and expanding the services offered by her company. She believes in the potential of young black people.
“We must start to create sustainable businesses. My black brothers and sisters, that is my dream. If you can build sustainable businesses that will become empires, it will be amazing. It’s inherent in us. We can do it.”