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Growing township businesses

Written by Albert Pule
With the help of government Nkululeko Mbhele is growing his business from a spaza shop into a commercially viable supermarket.

Nkululeko Mbhele shares a joke with colleagues at the Emabheleni Supermarket.Running a business comes naturally to Nkululeko Mbhele. His grandfather started a family business after relocating the family from the Ekurhuleni (East Rand) to Soweto. 

Soon, the tuckshop was taken over by his father and then his brother. When it was Nkululeko turn to run the business he transformed it from a spaza shop into a commercially viable supermarket.

He soon realised that running a supermarket has its own challenges. The business grew from a small spaza shop into a large store. Among other challenges faced was competition from other shops. 

Mbhele heard about an initiative by the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller (GEP), the Gauteng Department of Economic Development and Pick n Pay (PnP) that assists township businesses to grow. 

The partnership involves spaza shops in townships buying stock from PnP in bulk and selling it in townships using PnP’s model, infrastructure, corporate branding and pricing.

Mbhele says partnering with a well-known brand such as Pick n Pay has done wonders for  his family business.

“People are attracted to a big brand like PnP.  They set the price and people are attracted to it,” he says.

Since partnering with PnP, the business has grown and is making double the turnover it used to make.

“We have even increased our staff compliment. We used to have only six people but now we have 14 working different shifts.” 

Chief executive officer of the GEP Leah Manenzhe said she would like to see more township spaza shop owners taking up opportunities provided by government and entering the formal trading sector.

“GEP’s vision is that of ensuring that small businesses are propelled to move from informal and micro-sized businesses to sustainable enterprises that contribute meaningfully to the economy.

“The GEP works with all businesses, from start-ups and informal businesses to SMMEs, cooperatives and entrepreneurs that seek to grow their businesses.

For more information, contact the GEP: 011 085 2001

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