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 Dream of helping others put food on table fulfilled

 

 With his stellar career as an electrical engineer and hard-earned top academic achievements David Mmpanyana could have easily stayed on in his comfortable corporate job, but the yearning to build a business of his own was too strong.

Today the 45-year-old entrepreneur is the proud owner of an ACDC Express franchise in Witbank, Mpumalanga. It has only been eight months since opening the doors of his electrical equipment and consumables wholesaler at the Witbank Retail City complex, so David is still in the middle of his entrepreneurial baptism of fire.

But he has a history of overcoming adversity which has prepared him well for the rigors of running his own business.

He grew up in rural Limpopo and lost both his parents at the age of 10, after which he was raised by various members of his extended family. He ended up with his uncle in Witbank where he finished his matric.

He wanted to become a doctor, but there was no money for further education. Yet David embarked on a mission that would prove him capable of overcoming extreme obstacles.

For three years he worked as a manual labourer, scraping together enough to pay for the registration fee of a college where he could study electrical engineering. Knowing he only had one shot at it, his plan was to do so well at college that he would be able to pay for the rest of his education with bursaries.

The pressure was extreme, he says, but he pulled it off, and earned his diploma as the top electrical engineering student in the whole of Mpumalanga. This won him a bursary from Highveld Steel to study towards his degree in electrical engineering at the Vaal University of Technology, and helped his entry into the corporate world.

After a decade at Highveld Steel, he moved to Anglo American to further his career and personal growth and studied project management in his spare time. Over a number of years the idea of starting and running his own business had grown in his mind, and by the time was doing his MBA by correspondence he deliberately chose modules with an emphasis on start-ups and entrepreneurship.

David says his desire to start his own business was to a large extent linked to his dream of contributing more directly to the economic development of South Africa. Small, owner-managed businesses are able to create more jobs than the corporate world, he believes.

In order to ease his metamorphosis from a corporate employee to an independent business owner, he set his mind on franchising, which meant that he would still be working within a supportive system rather than in the wilderness as a stand-alone business owner.

David found that his MBA studies equipped him very well with the tools make a thorough study of all the franchise systems in the electrical industry. The ACDC system caught his eye early on. He liked the fact that ACDC outlets had a self-service shop-floor as opposed to the more old-fashioned sales counter of the competing brands.

His careful due diligence process confirmed his preference and within a year of embarking on his reconnaissance of the industry he was ready to open an ACDC outlet.

David’s preparations had also led him to the development programme of the SA Franchise Warehouse, which helps prospective franchisees with support and training.

Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS) has close ties with the programme, and David was able to access its finance for the franchise to make up for the shortfall in his savings. Apart from the fact that BUSINESS/PARTNERS was involved in the franchise support programme, David also found the terms of the eight-year loan more favourable than that of a bank that he had approached.
For David, the run-up to his opening day and the first few months of running his business was scary, but very exciting. “I can’t really describe it. I could see my dream being fulfilled,” he says.

Like any business owner starting out, David faces many challenges. The most difficult so far was finding reliable staff members, but one by one he managed to build up a team which now stands at six workers.
ACDC not only stocks equipment and supplies for electrical contractors, but also provides services ranging from solar installations to repairs of air conditioning systems. David spends most of his time outside of the shop to oversee site work and to market his services.

Within four months his new business broke even and today he is looking forward to more of what he finds most satisfying about running his own business - helping his employees put food on the table and taking his rightful place in the economic development of South Africa.

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