Finding or creating businesses opportunities is a skill that every entrepreneur should have to ensure the sustainable success of a company.
This is the view of Sanele Sibandze, managing director and co-founder of Songo Africa – a promotional clothing and gifting company – who has built his business by seizing every opportunity.
Sibandze says: “It’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves”, a quote by Sir Edmond Hilary who was the first modern man to climb Mount Everest, is something we repeat to ourselves daily. We say this as we continue to adapt to the changing conditions we trade in. One can plan and strategise all they want, however it’s how you adapt to change and failure that will lead to your success.
Founded in 2004 by husband and wife team, Sanele and Nomcebo Sibandze, Songo Africa was born in KwaZulu-Natal. The name is derived from the Nguni word “Songo” which means “adding flavour”. The company works with some of the most recognised brands in South Africa, supplying promotional gifts, promotional support elements, print production and design, as well as consumer market research.
Sibandze says he has always had the heart, and head, for business. “Working in sales and marketing has helped me become a specialist entrepreneur in creating and building a brand that stands out and delivers on its promise.”
Talking about what sets the company apart from the rest in the industry, Sibandze says Songo Africa prides itself in its high-quality products, competitive pricing and quick turnaround time in production and delivery.
However, the business journey has not always been easy.
“Key learnings include making expensive mistakes in the beginning, which cost us hundreds of thousands of Rands. The biggest lesson I learnt is that you cannot let this get the better of you, you have to pick yourself up and learn from your mistakes, which is one of the only ways to become a bigger and better business.”
The trajectory of the business changed when it was introduced to Novus Holdings, a commercial printing and manufacturing company, by Awethu Project, a SMME investment company, and received an interest-free loan as part of Novus Holdings’ Enterprise Development (ED) Programme.
“The cash injection made a significant difference in our business and we have seen our business expand. Prior to receiving the loan, our business turnover was R28 million a year. Now we are making a turnover of R42 million per year; a growth of over 40%,” says Sibandze. “The Novus Holdings ED programme created employment opportunities. We have also grown from employing only nine people to now having a staff complement of 18.”
Through their Enterprise and Supplier Development (ESD) programmes, Novus Holdings aims to support the growth and sustainability of small businesses such as Songo Africa, enabling them to prosper. The end-goal is that in time, their beneficiaries become valuable partners in the Group’s supply chain.
The future looks bright for Songo Africa: Plans for the next five to ten years include using recycled material to produce merchandise.
“We utilise a lot of material in production and we are constantly looking for ways to reduce our impact on the environment.”
With the aim of adding value to the community in which it operates in, Songo Africa offers skills training to young girls and women locally.
“Investing in our community is a great way for us to give back to those who have supported our business. We also realise the unemployment challenges our youth faces, so we aim to make a difference in any way we can,” concludes Sibandze