‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’

In these days of financial difficulty and all the other problems that beset our lovely country, it is great to read a story of success.

#ImStaying is indebted to an IOL report with photos that alerted us to the fantastic success story of a lady who lives deep in the rural Eastern Cape. One becomes accustomed to seeing derelict old motorcars lying rusting in the sun wherever poverty raises its ugly head. Sometimes farm chickens take up residence inside them. But they certainly do not contribute aesthetically to the scenery.

There have been wonderful stories of people who have used other discarded items to recycle and produce saleable things like paintings and labels on used and recycled teabags. Hats and handbags are being crocheted from plastic bags. As the saying goes: ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’.

Nosipho Kholutsoane working on a 1960 de Soto.

It takes someone of remarkable creativity, and the ability to think outside the box, to make a living out of the cast-offs of others. In the case of these cars, some of them have been lying there for over half a century, and no-one (except the chickens) has given them a thought.

But here we have Nosipho Kholutsoane, a business owner and job creator from Mount Fletcher, who has established a global business creating things of value and beauty from these discarded old wrecks. She first saw a TV show about restoring old cars and realised that there was a market for some of the old ‘skedonks’ adorning the countryside around her village. 

Making great ideas a reality

Great ideas often fail because that is what they stay – just great ideas. The real trick is to make them work, and that takes another sort of intelligence, dedication, and courage. 

Nosipho had the courage to actually take the next step. She had been working in the construction industry and occasionally helping her husband while he fixed people’s cars at their homes. But now she envisioned bigger things.

Nosipho creating things of value and beauty from discarded old wrecks.

First, she bought a rusty old 1947 Pontiac for R2000 and got busy cleaning and restoring it. Nothing happens overnight, and she had to work very hard, and solve many problems. Success does come if you follow the right path, and now, after five years, she employs four people in her business and has customers all over the world. 

Nosipho realised that she needed to learn how to make a business pay, and has enrolled with the Small Business Academy Programme at the Stellenbosch University to equip herself with the necessary skills. In her spare time, she searches the dirt roads and farms to find old cars, and anything dating from the 1930s to 1970s presents a new business opportunity.

Restored to their former glory

She also takes on work from all over South Africa for owners of vintage cars who need to have their cars restored to their former glory.

Nosipho is able to supply restored classics, which can be hired for special events, photoshoots, or to participate in vintage car shows all over the country. And her business is thriving.

My team and I have a passion and a love for these classic old cars,” she says. “Reconstructing them and restoring them to an excellent standard and value for money, brings joy to us and our customers who get to drive a unique vehicle and feel like a king or a queen.”

Developing skills for the youth

Of course, someone with this kind of originality and enthusiasm will usually find pleasure in helping others find their way in life. As a mother of four, she sees her business as a way to develop skills in the youth of her area. And her success is bound to inspire others. 

The ladies of the rural villages have often had to shoulder responsibilities for their families. They could be a big source of entrepreneurial skill, if they could only be shown how to harness their abilities in a financial way.

Although Mount Fletcher is a small village about 40km from the Lesotho border and over an hour’s drive from Umtata, it is on the R56 which is the shortest route between KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. 

A 1947 Pontiac

People driving past are not expecting to find refurbished vintage cars for sale in the middle of nowhere.

There are other more-established classic car restorers in the bigger cities, but the SBA programme has equipped Nosipho with skills to enable her to compete. Learning a bit about economics has helped her understand how to grow a business and also how to track its growth.

She now has plans to build a suitable workshop and buy a much-needed chroming machine for restoring the metalwork on her cars.

The bigger impact of growing small business

JoGEDA’s (Joe Gqabi Economic Development Agency) chief executive, Ayanda Gqoboka, says that partnering with the USB Small Business Academy over the last four years has enabled about 60 small businesses to get started. It has also mentored them as they have grown, and many are now going from strength to strength.

Changing the outlook of the rural people from one of mere subsistence to one of empowerment, economic growth, and employment-creation, can only benefit the whole country. They also hope to enable the rural youth to stay on rather than migrate to the cities. Hopefully, this will unlock another much-needed potential for growth.

SBA Head, Dr Marietjie Theron-Wepener, said that the programme was first rolled out in the Cape Town townships where the rate of failure of small businesses was of great concern. The programme has worked well there and shows every sign of doing the same in other areas.

Nosipho Kholutsoane and her Lereku Trading Classic Cars Business in Mount Fletcher is a prime example of how a real difference can be made in low-income communities. It is to be hoped that many will be inspired and will find ways to become successful in original and sustainable ways, thus providing employment and new hope for many others.

The Stellenbosch University’s Small Business Academy runs a programme in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape. For nine months, the academy and its partners support and guide small-business owners in running their businesses. The programme is funded by corporate and private sponsors. For more information and application forms, go to https://www.usb.ac.za/small-business-academy/

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