Already equipped with a woodworking qualification when he fled the economic crisis in Zimbabwe, Sibanda (26) arrived in South Africa in 2006 and has during the past half a decade grown from a disgruntled immigrant to become one of the youngest migrant businessmen.
“When I arrived here I was employed by a small company that manufactured fitted kitchens and built-in wardrobes,” said Sibanda in a recent interview.
“Despite my woodwork qualification, I knew nothing about fitted cupboards, but the company’s owner realised my passion and taught me how to do the job – starting from taking the dimensions, drawing the plans, the cutting lists, assembling and fitting.”
Then disaster struck! “Unfortunately, the company closed down and I had to move to another. But when that second company also closed down due to viability problems, things got
really nasty for me. I ended up working for a security company almost seven days a week and paid R1 200 per month. This kept on stressing me because I could strongly feel that I was in the wrong place, but because I had no other choice, I had to stick it out.”
With the stress quickly growing into depression, Sibanda decided toleave Johannesburg for Cape Town, but that did not prove any wiser a choice for him. “Life in the Cape is very much different from what I was used to in Johannesburg,” he added.
“It proved to be pretty difficult for me to secure a job there, until my brother-in-law, who owns a company that dealt in equipment maintenance took me in as a carpenter. I did ceilings and partitioning.”
That is when things began to move for the Bulawayo-born Sibanda. “My brother-in-law later introduced woodworking in the company, as a way of teaching me business skills.”
Having acquired the necessary business skills, Sibanda travelled back to Johannesburg, where he started his own company – Excelsior Fitted Kitchens, which has quickly grown in popularity.
“Among the top clients I have had is Mama Bongi Mkhabela (Chief Executive Officer of the Nelson Mandela children’s fund),” said Sibanda.
“I was very uneasy when she first contracted me because I had to compete with some established and big companies, but I made fitted kitchen so perfect that, impressed with the service, she tried to help me access with funds through the National Youth Development Agency, but that fell through because I am a foreigner here.”
Sibanda, who appreciates all the help that has come his way since he arrived in the neighbouring country, where most Zimbabweans struggle to establish themselves, said that he also owed his success to his personal qualities.
“I am very passionate about what I do and I have refused to allow any difficulty to bog me down. Every time I meet a difficult situation on the way, I take it as a challenge that I should overcome and emerge a stronger person,” he said.
“That is why even when the companies I worked for closed down one after the other, I did not consider it a lifetime crisis, but soldiered on and finally achieved what I really wanted in life – my own business. I believe that having a clearly defined vision in life, knowing how to achieve it and setting on the journey will always get you there and that is a philosophy that I have followed in setting up this business and a philosophy I will follow to make it grow into one of the biggest companies in the region.”Post published in: News