How this Soweto-born businessman learned to adapt his business during the Covid-19 pandemic

Wandile Moganedi started his container-converting business in 2018.
Wandile Moganedi started his container-converting business in 2018.
Wandile Moganedi/Supplied
    • Wandile Moganedi started his container-converting business in 2018.
    • Covid-19 has forced him to find new and innovative ways to use the containers he converts.
    • Raised in a four-room house in Soweto, he has first-hand knowledge of how important it is to have personal space. 

    It took eight different business ideas. He would start a business, fail and start another one. Giving up never crossed his mind.

    So when Wandile Moganedi found the one idea that worked for him, he was ecstatic.

    Architectural draughtsman Wandile (35) started his business, Smart-Living Properties, in 2018 – focusing on the use of alternative building methods that are cost-effective to meet the needs of many South Africans who struggle with housing, accommodation and office space.

    He converts and recycles shipping containers into offices, libraries and even school sanitation and ablution units.

    Born and raised in Dube, Soweto, Wandile lived with his mother, grandmother, three cousins, aunt and uncle in a four-room house.

    He knows first-hand the need for space.

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    “This started as a passion project for me, but I realised I could make a living out of it. I had tried so many business ideas so I wanted something I loved and that could also make money for me,” he says.

    Soon he had six staff members and orders were rolling in, until Covid-19 hit him where it hurts – his pocket.

    “I thought nothing could go wrong at this point. We were at the peak of our business. We had just introduced the Smart-Disinfecting unit which would be built to assist the government in reducing the spread of Covid-19. But those were cancelled due to further health implications.” 

    Wandile was back to square one.

    “We made these Smart-Disinfecting units from shipping containers to be placed in areas such as malls, schools, sporting events and areas of public transportation. The design and planning phase began when the president announced the national lockdown. It took two weeks to plan and another week to build the prototype unit. But when these were cancelled, we lost business and we donated these units to a Siyabonga High School in Braamfischerville, Soweto,” he says. 

    “These could be used as shelter or tuck shop spaces. The same unit will be repurposed into kitchen units for feeding schemes.”

    Wandile Moganedi was born and raised in Dube, Soweto.
    He converts and recycles shipping containers into offices, libraries and even school sanitation and ablution units.
    A work in progress.

    Wandile’s company was hit badly by the coronavirus.

    “I guess that is the nature of the business, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose,” he says.

    “We did not see this coming, the same way we did not see Covid-19, but we tried to be innovative and work around it,” he says.

    With six employees working from home and some idling, Wandile was forced to cut some costs to avoid retrenchments.

    “We have various projects we’ve been pursuing for a while, all those had to be put on hold,” he says. 

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    “We have not let any of our staff go but we restructured our business approach and the team’s package. We have had to cut down on business expenses and reduce a few necessary expenses. We have also gone to great lengths of securing loans, to make small changes in communities that will make big a difference,” Wandile says, adding that these loans will be paid with new ventures on the way.

    “We are slowly adapting to the new way of doing things,” he adds.

    He is now creating new units for businesses who want cost-effective offices and those that are looking for low-cost buildings. 

    “We are also busy with container bachelor units which we looking to launch soon to assist with housing and shelter for South Africans. But we have learnt that whatever we do, we need to keep up with the changing times,” he says.

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