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Case study: Makubenjalo Services Projects grows gardening services client base following completion of Seriti ESD Programme

Makubenjalo Services Projects is a company based in Zamdela, near Sasolburg in the Free State, which offers light civil engineering and garden maintenance services to government entities and private individuals. The company completed the Seriti Enterprise and Supplier Development (ESD) Programme, which equipped it with the tools and knowledge for future expansion.

Client background

Makubenjalo Services Projects was established in 2018 by Richard Nevhufumba. The company specialises in providing light civil engineering services, such as building repair and maintenance, to state entities and garden maintenance services to residential customers in the community where it operates. The company has to date completed plumbing, paving and other building maintenance work at government clinics and police stations. However, the bulk of its income is derived from providing garden services to residential clients. These services are provided on a 12-month contract basis. Garden services are supplied on three tiers: – budget gardening, general gardening and dynamic gardening – for which customers pay a monthly fee. Having customers commit to 12-month contracts has ensured that Makubenjalo could count on sustainable cashflow, even during the hard lockdowns caused by COVID-19. This essentially allowed the company to survive the lockdowns. The company currently employs four permanent workers and uses temporary staff when required. While Makubenjalo has cornered a large portion of the business-to-consumer (B2C) market in the Zamdela and Sasolburg areas, the company is planning to break into the business-to-business (B2B) space.

The challenge

Despite gaining significant traction with residential customers taking on its garden maintenance offering, Makubenjalo Services Projects has struggled to grow its customer base beyond a certain level. This was mainly a result of a lack of marketing skills and knowledge. While the company could count on steady cashflow from the monthly fees that it collected from customers, it struggled to manage its finances effectively, often running out of funds to service its equipment and purchase the high volumes of fuel that it required to operate its machines.

The company also realised that its goal of breaking into the B2B market would come with significantly greater requirements, such as the ability to provide landscaping services on a large scale. Furthermore, Makubenjalo would have to become a member of the National Association of Landscape Professionals in order to secure contracts in the B2B space. To successfully compete in this market, the company also realised that it would need to expand its resources and capacity, as it was only employing one permanent worker at that stage. Nevhufumba recognised that to grow his business, he needed to develop skills in financial management, sales and marketing to develop effective strategies that would drive the business forward.

The solution

In 2020, Makubenjalo applied and was selected to join the Seriti ESD Programme, which was designed to identify Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) in the specified local communities in which Seriti operates. Seriti contracted Zevoli Growth Partners to develop and implement the programme on its behalf, in line with Seriti’s commitment to support local SMMEs in acquiring the essential business skills needed to expand their operating capacity. A recruitment and awareness campaign attracted more than 500 applications from SMMEs. The programme was a capacity and capability building and mentorship initiative that took place between February and July 2021. The structured mentorship and training programme were aimed at assisting SMMEs improve their operational efficiency, expand market share, grow strategically and align to a level of sustainability.

The Programme identified several major challenges that needed to be addressed for Makubenjalo to grow. The company participated in one-on-one mentorship sessions that focused strongly on digital marketing and also attended business master classes over the six-month duration of the programme. The mentorship assisted the company with ways to design strategies to expand both its B2C and B2B customer base. Along with the knowledge and expertise that the company gained from these sessions, it also received financial and project management tools that allowed it to implement cost management strategies and manage cashflow effectively. These systems also positioned Makubenjalo to create sales and marketing campaigns, as well as do sales forecasting and set monthly targets.

The result

Following its completion of the Seriti ESD Programme, Nevhufumba believes his business is better positioned for future growth. The company benefitted significantly from the business tools and knowledge that it received and is now better geared in terms of marketing and financial management. It successfully concluded a marketing drive that allowed it to expand its B2C customer base and can now also market itself more effectively through digital and social media channels. The company is thus no longer hampered from accessing new clients due to COVID-19 restrictions. Its new financial and project management systems have enabled Makubenjalo to draw up more accurate budgets, identify target markets and set short- and long- term goals. Since the completion of the ESD programme, Makubenjalo has employed another three permanent workers and secured a short-term contract with the Department of Public Works for plumbing and paving work. The company is still eyeing an entry into the B2B garden maintenance market but feels that this is now a realistic goal with the skills and tools it gained from the Seriti ESD Programme.