The mood is buzzing at the inaugural South African Business Incubation Conference (SABIC) and Expo in Gallagher Estate. It’s March 2016 and the Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, and Public Enterprises Minister, Lindiwe Zulu, have just finished a tour of various exhibitor stands including that of Matayo Biofuels. Transform SA’s Publishing Editor, Saki Mabhele, speaks to Prince Skosana, the Managing Director of Matayo Biofuels (Pty) ltd, a company based in the East of Johannesburg in Benoni.
TSAO: What is Matayo Biofuels’ specialty?
Prince Skosana: Matayo Biofuels produces biodiesel as well as supply bio diesel pressing equipment. The business idea is based on three pillars, which are energy security, environmental preservation and social economic development. We have been operating for five years. Currently we do supply transport and construction companies in the country.
TSAO: What can you tell potential customers (clients) about Bio fuels, which is a new product which they are not accustomed to? What attracted you to it?
Prince Skosana: Biofuel is an alternative energy source. It is produced from edible and nonedible oils such as animal fat, sunflower oil, vegetable oil as well as soy bean oil. Biofuel is able to run on any engine.
TSAO: What is the public reaction to your product, thus far?
Prince Skosana: Customers will always have trust issues when it comes to accepting new concepts and products in the market. We have always encountered this, and this is what has led us to provide a service more than a product. We have taken this approach to educate the customer in the process. We stress the benefits of using biofuel.
TSAO: Do you have a background in the industry?
Prince Skosana: I have a background in the Electronics Engineering. However, I worked as a Market Researcher for a while. A few years later, I joined the IT industry, had my own successful business that ran for 5years, then I left the industry because I felt that it lacked a bit of diversity and it had its limitations.
TSAO: Why biofuel, not a different product?
Prince Skosana: It was simple. I understood the fact that we cannot live without energy, though form of energy is still fairly new in the African market. However, the prospects of growth are great.
TSAO: How many individuals do you employ, and how have you managed to keep the business afloat?
Prince Skosana: We are a 100% black-owned business, and have employed 8 individuals. We are self-funded, funders were skeptical to inject money into the business because the whole concept of biofuels was still fairly new in the market and flagged it as a high risk area. We did try approaching other funders for support but they too were weary of funding an unfamiliar industry, which was when I decided to take the risk and fund the business myself. And the rest, as they say, is history.
TSAO: Is there enough produce and raw materials to meet the demand of this new indusy?
Prince Skosana: There is definitely enough of raw materials and the platform for the raw materials to increase is also in existence. There are a lot of people who have access to land, that would to produce the necessary crops that can help produce biofuel. However, like any other industry, funding and finances is always an issue.
TSAO: It’s always difficult for a start-up to develop market share? How do you gain access to markets?
Prince Skosana: We access our niche markets through partnerships. We are also linked with the MMI that has assisted us to tap into the industry. Expos and Exhibitions also help us meet the right people through networking and forge partnerships.
We also access the markets through media publicity. So far, we have been featured on Morning Live, published in Engineering News and other outlets.
TSAO: What do you regard as the biggest challenge you have encountered?
Prince Skosana: When we started one of the challenges that we faced as a business was that we had come too early, as the segmented industry was not particularly ready for biofuels concept. This was due to the negative stigma and skepticism attached to biofuels. This led to teething problems that we had to address. In the process, we almost faced bankruptcy. The challenge that we are currently facing is keeping up with the high demand, and the issue of capacity we are working hard to combat all these challenges.
TSAO: What are the business’ future plans?
Prince Skosana: At the moment, we have a project that deals with the distillation of glycerin. Glycerin is the byproduct of biofuels in its crude form. When it is distilled we are able to produce cosmetic products. We are currently looking for funders to keep the project going. There are still projects that are in the pipeline, which we do feel it’s still premature to disclose.
TSAO: It seems you are very busy. Do you ever have time to relax?
Prince Skosana: I am part of an outreach program, which is where I spend most of my time. I also play a lot of sports and travel a lot as I believe that when you travel you get broaden your horizon.