Durban: At the age of seven, Nokuthula Dladla was bitten by the selling and business bug. She sold eggs and sweets in her neighbourhood and at school.
Today, at 55, Dladla is the founder of Megaphase Road Marking & Traffic Signs and is a nominee for the eThekwini Metro Municipality backed Women in Business Awards 2013, which will take place on Friday, August 23.
“The selling and business bug in me has never stopped,” she says.
Despite hardship while growing up, which prevented her from obtaining a proper education, Dladla never gave up on her dream. “I knew deep down in my heart that I was destined for the business world.”
Megaphase Road Marking & Traffic Signs is 100 percent black women owned. It was launched on August 1, 2009. The company is based in KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, with a branch in Johannesburg.
Megaphase Road Marking & Traffic Signs’ core business is the manufacturing of high-quality signage, accessories and road marking and line marking. Other services include road cones and studs, safety signs, regulatory and warning signs, and car branding, amongst others.
The nominees for Women in Business Awards were chosen out of four categories, which are: Micro/Emerging Company; Small/Medium Company; Cooperatives and Youth Owned Innovative Enterprise.
Megaphase Road Marking & Traffic Signs is shortlisted in the Small/Medium Company category.
According to the eThekwini Metro Municipality Deputy Mayor Nomvuzo Shabalala, the awards initiative aims to recognise and acknowledge the important role that Small, Medium and Micro Enterprise (SMMEs) play in the local economy and to also encourage other women in business to work hard.
The Women in Business Awards are spearheaded by the eThekwini Municipality’s Business Support, Tourism and Markets Unit. The winners in each category will receive their trophies in the Mayoral Awards for Excellence set to take place in November.
In an interview with SAnews, Dladla says the eThekwini Municipality has been the backbone in making her business a success in a highly competitive and male dominated industry.
“The municipality has not only provided us with free training courses in various aspects of business management, but 70 percent of our revenue comes from the City of Durban.”
Dladla began her journey in a road marking and traffic signs company as a rep for many years. She says working for this company was “an eye opener”.
“I realised then it was a highly specialised, competitive and of course predominantly male dominated.
“I set about starting my own company in 2003. All my attempts were stonewalled by the big companies. I then decided instead to start small as a distributor of road signs and protective clothing.”
She did this for five years and raised enough capital to venture into the business of her dreams – being a manufacturer.
Dladla says she had saved money during her distribution stint. To start her manufacturing factory, she needed R3 million.
“Because I had saved money, therefore had a high credit rating, Nedbank approved a loan facility of R3 million within three weeks,” she explains.
Today, Megaphase Road Marking & Traffic Signs has 50 employees. “The majority of them are like me, with no secondary education. I had to train them from scratch. This is my way of showing that success does not depend on good education only, but tenacity and hard work is equally a good alternative if you had challenges in completing your schooling.”
Now, a multi-million rand business with a turnover of R22 million in 2012, Dladla says she is geared for expansion.
“We have secured a number of new machinery and improved productivity. The next phase is to expand into manufacturing our own paint and venturing into civil engineering to build roads and other infrastructure.”
With a string of awards and accolades over the years, Dladla’s plan is no pie in the sky. In 2011 alone, she collected three awards – Lions’ Den Competition (awarded by eThekwini Mayor James Nxumalo), Alec Rogoff Broad Based BEE Awards – KZN Small BEE Company of the Year, and KZN Regional Productivity Awards (awarded by Productivity SA).
In 2012, Megaphase Road Marking & Traffic Signs was declared the overall national winner in the Technology for Women in Business, an initiative by the Department of Trade and Industry.
This year, the company has been shortlisted in the Eskom Foundation Women in Business Awards and now the eThekwini Municipality Women in Business Awards.
“It boils down to hard work, putting sound business systems in place and staff training and retention. I pay my staff very well and in turn, they are loyal and hard-working,” she says with a smile.