Cupboard love: how one Maritzburg women beat the odds to build a growing business

22 January 2020 | Web Article Number: ME202017669

Commerce & Trade
Government & Municipal
SMME Development & Support

TWENTY entrepreneurial women in rural and township areas have begun a mentorship programme that they won recently in Ithala Development Finance Corporation’s Imbokodo Iyazenzela Awards.

One of them is Cheril Gwala, owner of Majiya Built-in Cupboards, a small home-run cabinetry business in Slangspruit, Pietermaritzburg supplying built-in cupboards and kitchens.

Gwala started working for herself in 2010, formally registered her business in 2015 and now employs five people. She has been in the built-in-cupboard and kitchen installation sector since 1990 when she started working for a local kitchen company.

It wasn't by choice that she chose to work for a kitchen company. Personal circumstance resulted in her dropping out of school in grade 10 and she started looking for work in Mkondeni.

Cupboard love: how one Maritzburg women beat the odds to build a growing business
Cheril Gwala showcasing a completed installation

“My first job was at Unique Kitchens doing sanding, but I ended up assembling ironing boards and cupboards which was considered the men’s job. I was a hard worker and when I had no work I used to go and help the men. That is where I started to learn, but the factory closed down in 1995,” Gwala said.

After this she worked for four different joinery companies, honing her skills and then she joined GPR kitchens. When they too closed shop in 2010 she decided that enough was enough. “I told myself that what I was doing for the company, I'm going do it for myself.”

Taking her UIF payout, she bought the equipment that she would need and set up her own business using all the training and experience she had gained. “While I wasn’t really interested in woodwork to start with, I now love it and take it as a calling.”

In the past five years she has fitted new kitchens in well over 20 homes. “Business is tough and up and down depending on the economy,” she said. But despite this her dream is to have proper offices, a workshop where she can display her product and to expand throughout the province.

Ithala Development Finance Corporation Corporate Social Investment Co-ordinator Andile Mabaso said Gwala and the 19 other mentees would learn how to go about running a successful business and accessing funding.

“It is a vicious circle because without financial management, business skills and marketing it is very difficult to get funding,” Mabaso said.

“Imbokodo Iyazenzela or ‘Women doing it for themselves’ is our response to this problem. Mentorship is a powerful tool. Our experience over the past five years has shown that those who receive mentoring through our awards programme have become better at running their business; know if they are making profits or losses and have improved their marketing and sales.”

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