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 Determined entrepreneur hits gold-mine by pursuing his dream

 

 Dave Coleman always wanted to be in the movies. He still remembers his school mates’ laughter when he revealed his ambition to them, but it never stopped him from dreaming. Eventually, he did not become a movie star, but it was through movies that he propelled himself out of poverty and into business success in a career worthy of a movie plot.

Today, the 55-year-old entrepreneur and property owner runs two successful gyms in Port Elizabeth, a world away from the hard-scrabble life in which he grew up. He was raised first by his grandparents in Uitenhage and then by his single mother, whom he describes as “the hardest working person in the world”.  She used to work as a domestic servant during the day and as a caretaker of the elderly at night to provide for her four children.

Something of that fierce determination rubbed off on Dave, who used to work over weekends as a sweeper in order to pay his school fees rather than face the shame of being one of the poor who had their school fees paid for through a social grant. Much later in his life, the fact that the government’s social grants agency Sassa signed a ten-year lease as a tenant in one of his buildings held a special significance for Dave.

After school he trained as an electrician and with the same grit fought his way into a job at Mossgas, the state-owned natural gas extraction company that was building its refinery in Mossel Bay.

Dave’s contract came to an end in the early 90s when the Mossgas complex was completed. Instead of looking for another job, he decided to pursue his love of movies and looked around to start a video shop.

He found a bankrupt video outlet in Gelvan Park, Port Elizabeth, and against the advice of his friends and family bought it with the little bit of money saved up from his Mossgas work.  On his first day as the owner of the shop he made a grand total of R14, but he never looked back.

It was the hey-day of video shops and his outlet became spectacularly successful.  By the time he sold it in 2006 it was the biggest buyer of martial arts movies in South Africa.

Dave worked for seven days a week from 9 in the morning till 10 at night. He had no business training, but he ascribes his success to his social skills. He knew the tastes of many of the 12 000 clients on his database and could recommend movies based on what he knew they would like.

The shop was a goldmine for several years, generating enough revenue for Dave to start several other businesses, including a chicken franchise and a pizzeria. It also allowed Dave to buy the buildings from which he operated, a move that helped him weather the many storms that lay ahead.

2006 was an awful year for Dave, which started with the collapse of his marriage and ended with a near-fatal injury during a home invasion.

They were married in community of property, and Dave approached Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS) for finance to help them split all the businesses and properties they owned. Most of the businesses were sold and Dave was left with two business properties, one of which housed Sassa as a tenant.

Always on the go, Dave started several businesses over the next few years, including a fisheries and a pie shop. But in 2012 he received a health warning from his doctor: He was dangerously overweight and he would not see 50 unless he did something about it.

With his usual determination he started walking to get fit, but he also became acutely aware of the lack of gym facilities in the neighbourhood. When he could not find a gym operator to open a gym in his building in Gelvan Park, he decided to do so himself.

He not only managed the growth of the gym, but participated in it enthusiastically - much like he did with his take-away shops, he jokes, only this time he shed the 50kg that he had put on earlier. “I have always been the proof of the pudding of my businesses,” he laughs.

Later, when Sassa cancelled their lease in his Gelvandale building, the only tenant he could find was a liquor store. It would have been a lucrative lease, says Dave, but he decided against it. “Here I am promoting health (with my gym). I was going to be the biggest hypocrite if I gave the space to a liquor shop.”

Instead, Dave opened a second gym in the vacant space, which most recently he enlarged to 700 square metres with the help of his third loan from BUSINESS/PARTNERS. He says even though he would have been able to raise money from the banks, BUSINESS/PARTNERS service is much better and faster.

Although the economy is struggling, Dave believes in the constant improvement and expansion of his businesses, and sees lots of growth ahead.

His plans for next year include a trip to the US to check out the entertainment industry. Who knows what can happen if you stick to your dreams?

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