Young entrepreneur defying the odds

Gabriel SebothomaPretoria-based Monalebo Engineering Services (Pty) Ltd (MES) specialises in rope access, non-destructive testing, replicas, scaffolding as well as telecommunications, rail construction and maintenance. They provide this service to organisations in mining, manufacturing, power generation, petrochemicals (oil and gas), transportation and processing.

After being released from his job for going on an illegal strike, MES managing director, Gabriel Sebothoma (31), realised that there was a gap in this industry for black players and he then decided to pursue the opportunity and started his company in 2012.

When Sebothoma started, he had no illusions about how difficult it would be to succeed in this predominantly white-dominated industry. He, however, surged on and his young enterprise fought its way to becoming sustainable. They now have contracts with Exxaro Grootegeluk Coal Mine, Voermol Feeds (Tongaat Huletts), and Stanley Inspection (De Tect).

The company has 19 permanent employees and has been steadily growing and creating jobs despite the current tough economic environment. They also train technicians who are students or graduates from the Tshwane University of Technology, whom they then work with on a part-time basis. “We have just recently trained 30 Wall Thickness Technicians to add to the 40 that we trained last year. So we assist in training them for this field of work,” says Sebothoma.

MES, which prides itself in the quality and safety of its work, won the Shanduka Ambassador Award and was featured as a success story at the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) annual stakeholders’ function in 2016. In the same year, the company was named as a finalist in the annual Eskom Business Investment Competition (BIC) in 2016. The BIC recognises and rewards small black-owned businesses that are contributing to skills development, job creation and economic growth.

The BIC is open to small and medium enterprises operating in the engineering/construction, manufacturing, agriculture/agri-processing and trade/services sectors across all provinces. Entries for 2017 are currently open and will be closing on 18 July 2017.

The competition helps the likes of MES to grow by affording them an opportunity to generate awareness, market themselves and interact with corporates, potential investors and customers. As part of their prizes all the finalists also get to exhibit at the 3-day Small Business Expo (SBE) held every September in Johannesburg.

For Sebothoma and MES, which is continuing to grow, they reckon they have only scratched the surface and bigger and better things await them. “The market is big and we are constantly working towards being the preferred name in the industries we service – we aim to dominate,” enthuses Sebothoma.

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