Like many young people in the small Northern Cape town of Kuruman, Alleschia Burrows started working as a cashier at the local supermarket after she finished school. Today, this 26-year-old is an up-and-coming entrepreneur who owns two small businesses, and is determined to make a mark for herself in the local economy.
Burrows has been running a successful laundry business in the town since 2014, and recently purchased a Mageu manufacturing plant which will go into production next month. She credits the support she has received from Anglo American’s enterprise and supplier development initiative, Zimele, as ‘critical’ in her success to date.
“I’ve built one business from scratch, and bought another that was totally out of my comfort zone, but I couldn’t let the opportunity pass. It’s a really steep learning curve, but the entrepreneurship training I’ve received from Zimele over the years has helped me focus on what’s important in the business,” says Burrows.
So how do SMMEs grow, and expand their products and service offerings? We caught up with Burrows to get her top tips and advice.
Build your knowledge and skills constantly
“Back in 2019, I thought I needed money to grow my business. Then I did entrepreneurship training, and I realised I didn’t need money: I needed the skills and confidence to build the business, and generate the money that way. By taking advantage of the training that was available, I gained a lot of valuable knowledge that helped me grow, and which stood me in good stead when funding opportunities did come along,” says Burrows.
Make the time to do the admin
Sometimes you get so caught up in doing the actual work of the business, that you forget to stay on top of your paperwork and financials. “You’ve got to know what’s going on with the business, or you will get into trouble quickly,” says Burrows.
First impressions last forever
Make sure you’re able to service your existing client base properly before you go looking for new clients, says Burrows: “It doesn’t help to grow your client base if you can’t get to all of them. If a new client gets poor service, you may lose them forever. And in a small business, or in a small town, you can’t afford that, financially or for your reputation.”
Be prepared to roll your sleeves up
“Business is hard work! You can’t own a business that you can’t work on yourself. You don’t have to do all the work yourself, but you have to know how to do it if necessary. Owning your own business means long hours, but it’s worth it. You can’t rely on other people to run your business for you,” says Burrows.
What’s next for this young businesswoman? Apart growing her laundry business, once Mageu production is up and running, Burrows plans to expand her manufacturing plant to include products like bottled water, ice, juice, amasi and yogurt.
“There’s a clear gap in the market for these products. With the help of my mentors at Zimele, I aim to grow the business to serve the broader region, and to employ more local people. And then we’ll take it from there.”