Favorite quote: “Isaiah 60:22 – “When the time is right, I, the Lord, will make it happen.”
What is your story (tell us about yourself)?
I am Boitumelo Nkatlo from a mining town of the Free State, Welkom. A married father of 2 (Thuto and Lethabo) who are my inspiration to reach greater heights.
I’m a Chemical engineering graduate from the University of Johannesburg and have been in the Metallurgical fraternity for over 13 years.
When did you start your first business and what inspired you to start?
It is well known that water is a scarce resource and our depletion rate is at an alarming stage. During my tenure as a Metallurgist, I then noticed with great concern that there is this contaminated acidic mine water underground which is not drinkable. I wanted to solve this problem by using my acquired chemical engineering skills and increase our country’s water footprint which can be used for drinking, irrigation and agricultural purposes.
In 2014, I then approached the University of Johannesburg to do laboratory analyses and the results proved that there’s a case for further development. We then approached the Council For Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to build a prototype which now treats 20 000 litres of the contaminated mine water.
What is the Key Objective(s) and Vision of your business? (Has it changed overtime or has it always been this?)
Our objective is to increase South Africa’s water capacity for drinking, irrigation and agricultural purposes in order to increase our country’s food security and also address environmental challenges caused by Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) while the mines advance their production targets.
Our vision is to build a number of modular AMD treatment plants across southern africa even beyond african borders in order to address water scarcity problems.
What challenges did you face in your journey? What’s the biggest obstacle you had to overcome (are still overcoming)?
Access to finance and lack of confidence in SMME’s are the greatest two challenges which I am still overcoming.
How did you manage to navigate your company through this period of the Covid-19 pandemic? (What business strategies/operational adjustments have you made over this period and how has it impacted your business model?)
Our business has only proved its concept and currently not generating any revenue due to reasons mentioned in point 5 above. We have not received any visitors to our CSIR prototype since the lockdown in March 2020 and this has impacted our ability to find potential clients coming to see and validate our solution. We have then decided to change the strategy and look for funds to build a mobile (Trailer-mounted) demonstration plant where we will now take the solution to the potential clients as generally, people believe what they see.
How do you approach networking and building partnerships in your industry?
I am an incubatee in a number of organizations such as The Innovation Hub, Indalo Inclusive, Lepharo and Black Umbrellas where I network with different people in the business who later become my referees.
Do you have (or ever had) a mentor in your journey, and do you believe it helped (if yes, in what way)?
Yes, Sello Damoyi has been my mentor during my Metallurgical journey and he’s also now into business.
Mentors help to perfect our craft and constantly remind us why we have started this lonely journey called entrepreneurship.
What is your perspective on the South African entrepreneurial landscape before and after Covid-19 pandemic? (Would you say the “new normal” context drives more or less opportunities for entrepreneurs?) How can entrepreneurial policy development aid in expanding opportunities in this new context?
The “new normal” has taught us that we can do without other things as people can now work from home but the pandemic has also brought poverty as people have lost their jobs.
Entrepreneurship is the only hope for our country in order to solve problems while creating permanent employment for our people.
In your opinion, what are the secrets to being a successful entrepreneur?
One needs to identify an opportunity/need therefore create a business out of it. This was my journey to date.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
No one is interested in your story until it is a success, therefore it is your responsibility to make your story a success.
Believe in your dreams and be persistent in your journey.