While no business went unscathed by the national lockdown, small businesses felt the brunt of it. Fortunately, one organisation stepped up to help some businesses owned by quadriplegics and paraplegics.
As South Africans were asked to stay home, many businesses were forced to close. For a small business or new businesses, a month or more with no income can be fatal. Fortunately, for some businesses owners who are quadriplegics and paraplegics, there was some relief courtesy of the Quadriplegic and Paraplegic Charitable Trust of South Africa (QPCTSA). The Trust, established in 2012 to raise funding and resources to invest in the entrepreneurial and economic development of quadriplegics and paraplegics, specifically provides start-up and growth capital, but also provides guidance and mentorship where it is required.
QPCTSA supports businesses in a variety of industries from agriculture to car washes and locksmiths. The Trust also aims to uplift previously disadvantaged individuals with 75 percent of its beneficiaries made up of black persons. Knowing the obstacles facing entrepreneurs with disabilities – especially with a lockdown bringing the economy near to a standstill – the QPCTSA made funding available to support small business owners during lockdown.
Nine businesses benefitted from the relief services provided during the lockdown with more than R150 000 provided by the Trust. These businesses were given three months after which the Trust requires feedback to decide whether continued assistance is needed. While the funding from QPCTSA was a great relief, these businesses still need your support!
West Rand Locksmith and Number Plates
Deon Nel opened his businesses, West Rand Locksmith and Number Plates, in 1987 as a qualified locksmith. Tragedy struck in 2004 when Nel was diagnosed with a terminal motor neurone disease, which led to paralysis and a loss of his voice. By 2008, Nel was unable to consume food or liquids through his mouth nor breath without assistance. Fortunately, his son, Jason, graduated high school in 2004 and became his father’s voice and hands. He qualified as a locksmith to run his father’s business. Jason has not taken a salary as the income only covers the overheads and Nel’s medical aid. Nel shares: “Most difficult thing is not being able to go into the shop to help Jason or to talk. It is frustrating as people still insist even though my wife, Bernice, is my voice. “She has been in tears on many occasions as people don’t understand some disabilities rob you of your voice. I am a quadriplegic and can only move my eyes, but my brain is still 100 percent. It is just locked in my body,” he adds.
For this small, family owned and run business, the funding was a “godsend”. As the business was shut during lockdown, there was no daily income, which meant devastation for a family that already lives from hand to mouth.
“Life support is very expensive, and I can’t live without power or medical aid. The grant enabled us to pay a few overheads and open doors for a few hours a day to provide essential services,”Nel explains.
MSI Shoe Shine and Services
Anda Mthulu started his company in 2016 as he wanted to be self-employed and create job opportunities for people with disabilities. He enjoys earning his income through what he enjoys, but finds it challenging to play so many different roles in his business. “The challenges of being a business owner, especially small business like mine, is that you have to be a bookkeeper, administrator, frontline service provider and do everything in the company as technology, human and financial resources are constrained,” he explains. With the pandemic, Mtuli was not able to work. Fortunately, with the help of QPCTSA, he was able to keep his staff on. “The funding sustained our business by keeping the talent and staff. This business is about people and, without the right people, a business can’t grow and mature,” he says. Visit the MSI Shoe Shine and Services website at www.msiservices.co.za or the Facebook page at Master Shiner Invigorator.
Siphola La Trading
Back in 2006, Sipho Mdletshe established his business Siphola La Trading, which was only fully operational and registered in 2015. He started his business after realising there is a need for adapted vehicles. “I noticed that most people with disabilities are not driving since they don’t have a driver’s licence,” he explains.
“Even if they have a licence, they don’t get cars that are adapted for their needs. Some end up requesting people to drive their cars. I decided to close that gap by providing the service of adapting their cars by using my previous skills of motor mechanic and engineering.”
Mdletshe enjoys that he can work from home, be his own boss and support his family. Prejudices from vehicle owners and motor dealers make it difficult for him to find work. Lockdown has meant even less work as he was unable to travel to clients or have vehicles brought to him. In addition, customers have less budget for hand controls. Support from the QPCTSA allowed Mdletshe to start repairing starter motors and alternators as well as hot plates, kettles, and irons. To make use of services provided by Siphola La Trading or to find out more, visit the website at www.sipholala.co.za.
Click on https://www.rollinginspiration.co.za/issue-2-2020/ to download this issue and read the full story with details about other businesses which were assisted by QPCTSA on page 21.