Johannesburg - After 20 years of working for others, growing their businesses and enriching them, Jerome Perils now thinks it’s his time – hence the apt name of his business, Kenako (it is time) Concrete.
However, the 47-year-old father of three does not regret the two decades he spent working for some of South Africa’s top ready-mix concrete companies, such as Scribante, Lafarge and Concrete 4U, as this gave him vast knowledge and experience for starting his own business.
Today, he owns Kenako Concrete – a R71 million ready-mix concrete facility at the Coega special economic zone near Port Elizabeth.
It is South Africa’s first completely black-owned concrete manufacturer, and Perils is also the first black industrialist in Port Elizabeth to be funded by the department of trade and industry (the dti) and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC).
SPECIALISED: Kenako Concrete ready-mix concrete facility. (Photo: City Press)
“After having studied clinical psychology, I still up to now don’t know how I ended in this industry,” said the soft-spoken Perils, as he apologised for the constant ringing of his phone during an interview with City Press.
“However, I don’t regret the decision. I am quite happy and my work is fulfilling. One of my clients now calls me Mr Concrete.”
He worked for various ready-mix concrete manufacturing companies for many years until, in 2015, he decided to sell his 30% stake in Concrete 4U and start his own venture.
Perils approached the dti’s Black Industrialists Programme, seeking funding. He considers himself as “very lucky” and, during the interview, kept showering praise on the dti and the IDC for the “good work” they are doing to uplift formerly disadvantaged entrepreneurs.
“I went through tough scrutiny – due diligence, background checks and other verification processes – when applying for funding. Again, I don’t blame them for this – it’s to make sure funding is given to those who can utilise it properly and improve the economy by creating jobs,” he says.
Perils says that, when seeking funding, the IDC is much better compared with commercial banks.
“They are very helpful – it’s because they have a mandate from government. They are empowering non-whites and helping them come into the country’s economic mainstream.”
His funding was approved in March, and the following month, he acquired state of the art machinery from Italy to start his project.
Production started five months later in September. The facility churns out 6 cubic metres of concrete in four minutes and 150 cubic metres of concrete in one hour. It also produces retarded mortar, plaster and topping.
At the plant, the aggregate, which includes stone and sand, is poured into bins and then weighed for the correct type and material amount required in accordance with the type of concrete sought. Via a conveyor belt, the aggregate is then taken to a mixing machine and concrete dispenser where water and chemicals are added.
Perils says concrete is either mixed at the plant and then delivered in specialised trucks to construction sites, or it is mixed in the trucks as they transport it to the sites where it is needed. Kenako Concrete has 16 of these specialised vehicles.
Perils also boasts of his facility being a “green operation”, as water used to wash the trucks is recycled back into the plant and used for concrete manufacturing.
Mr Concrete Jerome Perils (Photo: City Press)
“My only gripe is that this industry is still not transformed. Look at all the big companies in this industry – all white-owned and well established. It’s difficult to enter the industry. I was lucky because I have been in the industry for 20 years and have earned the trust of most construction companies,” he says.
“I am confident I will survive in the industry as we have new state of the art equipment, our pricing is very competitive, our product is of good quality and the industry knows me from the big companies I worked for before.”
He employees 46 people, but says the figure will increase as he is very positive that the construction industry, particularly in the Eastern Cape, will grow.
Perils says he currently has 33 accounts that include big construction companies such as WBHO, Group Five, Aveng Grinaker-LTA and Murray & Roberts.
“My fulfilment and joy comes when, every Friday, I see smiles on my employees’ faces after receiving their pay cheques. I feel I am contributing something to people’s lives,” he says.SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE UPDATE: Get Fin24's top morning business news and opinions in your inbox.