The road to success is always under construction” − These are the words of Vandy Cloete, co-founder and director of WVC Konstruksie.
Vandy is an entrepreneur whose journey is a reflection of resilience, tenacity and embodying a strong will to learn and put in the work, in order to achieve success.
As part of my work in supporting the Economic Inclusion Unit at the National Business Initiative (NBI), I have had the privilege and honour of witnessing her journey, through NBI’s flagship programme, the Installation, Repair and Maintenance (IRM) Initiative.
The IRM Programme forms part of this bold initiative, which seeks to collaborate with Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges, industry bodies and strategic stakeholders in playing a critical role of unlocking demand for IRM skills and employment in both the formal and informal economy.
The programme has supported many entrepreneurs like Vandy, who train and employ young IRM candidates, ploughing back to their communities and improving the livelihoods of people and their families.
Vandy and her husband have been in the construction business for over 20 years and operate a construction business in Atlantis.
She is one of 14 business owners receiving support through the Atlantis Special Economic Zone (SEZ), in partnership with West Coast College. Their business was formally registered in 2021 and through business acceleration support, were assisted in attaining the necessary compliance requirements which have seen their business obtain a Level 1 CIBD grading, with aims to work towards obtaining higher gradings.
They also aspire to grow their workforce in the near future.
The Atlantis SEZ’s inclusive local economic development work, in partnership with the NBI is supported by key funders and partners which include the Absa Group, DI – Confederation of Danish Industry, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), KfW and PepsiCo. They offer a 6-month business acceleration course, inclusive of key master classes tailored to the needs of emerging entrepreneurs. These bespoke master classes incorporate course content that covers and cuts across sales, finance, HR principles, compliance and investor pitching. In addition, they help entrepreneurs understand the value of knowing their target market as well as key aspects of financial management.
In an interview with Vandy, she referred to the importance of managing finances and being able to separate personal finances from business finances, laughing as she reflected on how they now have an accountant who helps keep them accountable and clear on “whose money the business really is!”
Her infectious grin widened as she also reflected on the lessons learnt in the compliance component of the programme.
Vandy said prior to starting the programme, compliance was not even a word in their vocabulary, however, now, being compliant has seen them align with requirements that have enabled them to access wider opportunities and do business on another level.
She adds that they have now gained the knowledge, confidence and skills to apply for tenders, which they would not necessarily have qualified for before.
Helping small businesses navigate the often-difficult road to engaging and participating in the formal economy is a key area within the IRM programme.
Business owners were not only exposed to business master classes, but were also reminded of the need to regularly focus on keeping an entrepreneurial mindset.
One of the principles that were shared in this programme was the importance of moving out of the comfort zone and challenging yourself. Beyond comfort lies the learning and growth zone. These are zones they want to tap into.
“Courage is the resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear” – author Mark Twain.
It was encouraging to see Vandy and others in the cohort applying this within their businesses and most importantly themselves.
It was also important that Vandy reflects her growth not only in business skills, but also in confidence, passion, and persistence.
This confidence was evident to me as she expressed herself so coherently in English, where she would have traditionally expressed herself in her home language of Afrikaans.
I have always held the notion that people buy into you before they buy your products. In my conversation with Vandy, it was easy to buy into this confident, engaging, and enthusiastic business owner. Vandy overcame fear to boldly step into a place of learning and growth.
“Entrepreneurship can be a challenging and lonely journey. Who do you share with, learn from and get clear feedback from?”
She reflected on how grateful she was for the direct and indirect support she and the other beneficiaries received from the IRM programme partners. It truly does take a village to grow an entrepreneur!
Vandy said she encourages both women and men to participate in such programmes, noting that the growth she experienced is visible not only in business but in her personal life. A display of her improved confidence was witnessed in a recent event where she was bestowed the opportunity to address and empower a group of women within her community. I am certain the audience benefitted from her humour, enthusiasm, and openness.
As a woman in construction, I asked her what differentiates their business from others?
“Our consistency, friendliness and willingness to go the extra mile,” she shared.
She made reference to a recent conversation with a developer who gave outstanding feedback on the quality of her work.
May this story, a story of a business built to last, encourage others to begin and continue their entrepreneurial journey to success.
● Steve Reid runs his own business in support of entrepreneurs, leaders and incubators. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org