Keith Crocker, owner and founder of Crockers Iron and Metal works, a manufacturing company based in Port Elizabeth, started his business 42 years ago when he got first choice on some machines and engineering equipment from a wrought-iron business a friend previously ran.
"The price was right and, because I was a boilermaker by trade, I thought it was time to take the opportunity to start my own business," says Keith.
"For the first two weeks, I still worked for a boss and was doing my own work in a tiny workshop in the evenings."
He says finance is always a challenge when one starts a business. Bad payments and finding new customers were also challenging.
All these challenges were eclipsed by what he calls his one big personal challenge: whether he should give up on his business and go work for someone else again.
"I am a capable boiler-maker so the temptation was sometimes strong, but I always stuck it out," says Keith.
He had heard about Raizcorp but had very little knowledge about them.
"I'd read about them in the past, but there are so many incubators out there that I didn’t really take it seriously," he explains.
"Then, in 2016, I received a call from Raizcorp’s head office saying that Bridgestone was interested in sponsoring my business on a growth programme. The lady said that their Uitenhage branch would be in touch and explain everything, which they did."
Before the selection process, Raizcorp sent him a questionnaire to fill in as part of his assessment.
"The minute I read those questions, I had an 'aha' moment - an excitement stirred in me and, somehow, I knew this was exactly what I was looking for," says Keith.
Since starting the programme, one fundamental truth has really started to shape him, and that was that it’s not other people, circumstances or what is out in the world that determines his quality of life.
"It’s how I choose to process the reality around me in my thoughts. This has been such an eye opener and has helped me see things from another angle. It has given me faith in myself and allowed me to work through some difficult situations," he continues.
He has also gained a lot of business knowledge which has had a big impact on his business.
"I now know that I have to hold myself responsible for everything in my business. Raizcorp has taught me to invest in myself. In just the first ten months, my business realised a 41% growth and I have been able to employ more staff, although temporarily for the moment," he says.
"We’ve recently been doing a lot of quotes and tenders but, what I’m really excited for in 2018, is that – even though I’ve been in business for years – my business no longer just exists. I have firm targets and I am going for them. We are also now more goal oriented."
His immediate focus is on putting together a proper sales strategy and keeping a promising pipeline alive.
"Not only am I enthusiastic about the help and guidance I’m getting, but I am taking what I learn each month and implementing it in my business," says Keith.
"I think it’s very important for young entrepreneurs to be honest, to be able to dream and to have aspirations, but you also need to take responsibility. You must keep your heart as well as your head, and don’t give up."
He is grateful to Bridgestone and looks forward to an ongoing relationship and regarding Raizcorp, he sees it as "family" with unselfish dedication.
* Sign up to Fin24's top news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO FIN24 NEWSLETTER