Kedibone Tsiloane, Co-Founder, Ramtsilo Trading, winner of the 2019 Standard Top Women pitching den, Kimberley

Briefly tell us more about yourself and your journey thus far.

I am a strong, young woman who is passionate about self-empowerment and

independence. I am from a small town in SasoIburg, well known for being the home to Sasol, the industrial firm. I grew up in a close-knit family where I was exposed to business by my father who owned a construction company.

I am a Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) with an honours degree in Internal Auditing. In 2017 I completed a postgraduate diploma in business administration and aim to do pursue my MBA once the business is stable.

During varsity holidays I would travel to construction sites with my father and help with the running of the business – this is where my passion for business grew. In 2016 when my sister pitched the concept of ecofriendly homes (building material made from recycled plastic), we took on the task to prototype this plastic brick ourselves and test them. I spent all the savings I had to try and turn our idea into a business.

We have since then empowered other young people by creating employment and formed relationships with waste pickers which has also helped to formalise that industry.

We experimented and developed the Plastibrick guided by these principles:

  • Reduce the unemployment rate for the people in our community,
  • Preserve water in the brick making process and
  • Recycling used plastics (waste) to manufacture our bricks.

We were able to get our bricks tested in 2017 and were pleasantly surprised by the results. The bricks have a compressive strength of 10.1Mpa which is higher than that of a conventional brick (7Mpa). The bricks also have a low water absorption rate, this is due to the plastic element in the bricks which render it less porous than the cement brick. The obvious benefit is that buildings have a longer lifespan as it does not absorb as much water but we also save costs in that the bricks don’t take in as much plaster/cement mix during construction.

We have seen so much success on our journey – we have successfully moved from the startup phase and are formalising our business with a new operations site, smaller machinery and market access.

We invested significantly in marketing of our bricks, through the interbuild Africa exhibition offering us access to local and international audience of key industry buyers and influential decision-makers, the SEDA Vaal SMME, SABIC business incubation and the Africa Rfail expo.

  • We won an investment of R250 000 into machinery in 2018 pitching to Department of Small Businesses in the Free State.
  • We have also been featured in various newspapers (Soweatan, Dumelang news, Sunday Independent; a Ghana-based publication called Light Africa Magazine, China Global Television Network and interviewed by a radio station (SABC Tru FM).)
  • We own first place at the SEDA Pitch Perfect Fezile Dabi competition.
  • We own first place at the Sasol Enterprising women programme facilitated by the North West University.
  • We were invited to the Unilever Conference in Durban and University of Johannesburg to talk about our journey as young women who have successfully empowered themselves.
  • In May 2019 we came first in the Standard Bank Top Women pitching conference in the Free State.
  • In April 2019 we were invited to the Africa Rail Expo which gave us access to international stakeholders. We have potential business from the sale of the brick technology to various countries which is a new income stream we have identified.
  • We have also identified a new source of revenue which is the sale of the technology to make the bricks. At most of the expos people from all over are interested in purchasing the bricks however one of the challenges is the cost of transportation. This has resulted in a number of people expressing the interest in purchasing the machinery to manufacture the Plastibricks.

What is the ethos of your business, Ramtsilo Trading?

Vision

To be a force of socio-economic development.

Mission

We are committed to becoming the leading producer and supplier of quality building material servicing the nation.

Ethos

Professionalism – in all that we do we are led by the at most professional standards.

Client focus

We are committed to ensuring that we meet 100% demand for our building material in the market.

Value adding

We aim to create value for each of our client’s by understating their needs and meeting them to the best of our capabilities.

Integrity

We maintain the highest level of integrity towards all our stakeholders.

Green

We will continuously strive to producing and supplying quality and environmentally friendly building material to the South African market.

Challenging the status quo

Whether is it work place flexibility or challenging authority as young women who have entered on the of the oldest and dominated market we continuously challenge the status quo and we encourage our team to do so.

Team work

Our team is 95% youth, if there is one thing we have gotten right is creating a culture of team work. While our team is very independent we all one family all working towards one common goal.

On your road to success, what have been some of your biggest challenges and successes?

The biggest challenge we faced was penetrating a male dominated industry as young black women. Not only was it a question of competency but our race and gender also posed a challenge. We once walked into a meeting to present for funding. After the meeting one of the panelists said that they were very surprised as they thought we were there to request funding for a beauty salon.

Another challenge we faced was cashflow. Just like a lot of entrepreneurs we had to start off using our own funds. My sister and co-founder does not work so all the expenses were on me. We resorted to a local welder to make machinery for us although it was a very slow machine, it allowed us to prototype, manufacture and test our bricks. That self-sacrifice paid off as we won funds towards a machine in 2018, although we have not received enough funds for an automated machine, we remain resilient and have all the faith that we will one day be able to purchase the machine to meet our growing demand.

Do you find that women often meet different challenges than their male counterparts?

Definitely. We are doubted and often unfairly challenged because traditionally women have never had a seat at the table and today we are not asking but demanding those seats. This change is not only difficult but most men find this very uncomfortable.

Women have always been hard working however, events in our lives such as “the time of the month”, pregnancy, sociatal expectations of what a woman’s role is and raising children have put us in a challenging.

Another challenge is the emotional aspect – women are often challenged due to their emotions however it is great to see that a number of businesses have started seeing the advantages of the “emotions” of women in the workplace, particularly as more businesses are learning that people – whether clients or staff – are the biggest asset for the business.

What are some of your greatest passions in life?

When you’re trying to find your passion, the first place to begin is within yourself.

Maintaining a growth mindset and the willingness to improve is key to becoming a fully actualised person. I continuously work on personal growth as a foundation for positive change in my life, so I spend a lot of time reading up on not only our industry but also related industries.

I love empowering other women, not only financially but also helping with homework, donating clothes, pads etc. making sure I play my part in helping the next woman or girl smile.

I also love playing golf – not only is it a challenging sport but it teaches a number of principles including patience, resilience, getting things wrong but not letting that deter me from my goals, one shot (day) may not be the same as the next one and having a tenacious spirit.

If you could give your teenage self any advice, what would that be?

Be patient with yourself, you are stronger than you think.

Quick-fire Q&A

Who or what inspires you?

I am inspired by anyone brave enough to start something from scratch to creating a successful outcome. Whether it is the security guard at our complex who studied law while working nightshift or Jack Ma who brought internet to China. As a person who believes in self-empowerment I draw inspiration from people who do not allow circumstances to define who they are but look beyond what and where they are and create a success for themselves and others.

What is your favourite getaway destination?

Anywhere where there is water, crystal-clear beaches and sand. Santorini is one that quickly comes to mind, but as a true African I can’t talk about beaches and not mention Seychelles.

If you could have dinner with any 3 people, who would they be and what would you serve?

Mama Winne Mandela – I would serve her a fancy meal, one of those that don’t really make you full but look pretty on your plate; one you can’t even pronounce the name of, just to hear her make fun of it before I give her some samp, beans and tripe.

Jack Ma – I would serve him a local meal – Chisa Nyama and make sure he tastes our yummy chakalaka.

President Cyril Ramaphosa – I would serve one of my favourite meals my mom makes when she spoils us… oxtail and mash. For no particular reason but just to show our president some appreciation for his hard work.

What would you do with an extra hour in your day?

I am tempted to say catching up with admin but one thing I would truly love to do with an extra hour is to show my family a bit more appreciation.

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