It is difficult to imagine anyone starting a business amidst a pandemic and to say that 2020 was filled with numerous twists, turns and uncertainties, would be an understatement. So, imagine starting a business during this time – and not just any business, but a construction, renovating and infrastructure business that promises its clients innovative and cutting-edge services?

One would imagine that starting your own construction business is no easy task, So what will be the outcome of Doreen Modisane’s long-term effort of building a reputation and establishing herself as Pretoria’s leading contractor?

“Someone looking at it from the outside might think that I’m crazy to get into construction when the only thing people are thinking about right now is survival, but I didn’t just wake up yesterday and think about this. I’ve had this idea for a few years and when 2020 started, I decided it was going to be my year,” Doreen recalls.

“I think construction is very profitable. It might not be as consistent and sometimes projects are hard to secure, but when you do secure a project, it can generate you a lot of income, depending on what the client wants,” she explains.

Doreen believes that townships like Mamelodi where she stays are becoming more vibrant and that homeowners not only want houses that feel like home, but that they want their homes to be visually appealing and unique to their character. “Driving around our neighbourhood, I can see that people no longer just want to copy and paste as they used to in the past, where if your neighbour renovated their house in a new style, then everyone followed the same trend and renovated their homes the same way. That is outdated,” says Doreen.

The importance of specialising

Doreen’s company, Moledupi Holdings Enterprise, offers various services, such as plumbing, plastering and home renovations, but she says the trick to a successful business is specialising in one thing and being good at it. “Someone once told me that being a Jack of all trades was not the best way to build a successful business, so I need to find what my clients want, refine it and let that be what my business is best known for,” says Doreen.

While she might know the general ins and outs of the construction industry, she is by no means an expert and so, not wanting to remain complacent, she would like to enrol in product knowledge courses and learn as much about the trade as possible. “I know the only way I will stand out from my competitors is if I become a master in what I want to specialise in,” Doreen explains.

Bridging the gap

Even though construction is a male-dominated industry, Doreen is determined to make her mark by being the best in the business. “It’s not going to be easy. I have 10 employees, mostly men, so having them answer to a woman is no easy task, but I’m confident in my leadership abilities,” she says.

“When I was young, jobs like these were not associated with faces like mine. Never mind being black, I was a girl and as a young girl I was always pushed towards more feminine jobs. Being an entrepreneur was seen as a man’s job,” she explains.

In her early twenties, Doreen says she was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and although she didn’t exactly have an idea of the kind of business she wanted to pursue, she knew that she wanted to have the “Business lady” title. “I’m a born leader,” she laughs. “I have aspirations of being more than I am now and I am willing to work hard at it.”

The Covid-19 challenge

Doreen says that as a new business owner, she knew it was going to be challenging to get a business up, running and successful, but she could never have imagined that it would be this tough. “I never imagined the pandemic would progress in the way it did. I didn’t think it would affect so many businesses the way it did, including mine. I still have so much to learn about business, like how to develop a solid marketing strategy, build good relationships with other service providers and create a good client database. Finances are a challenge, because you need to spend money to make money and currently I have neither,” she adds.

The impact of the Building Business programme

Being part of the Nedbank-sponsored Ranyaka Building Business programme helped Doreen to understand the business environment and as a budding entrepreneur, the lessons and tools that the programme provided has fuelled her desire to continue to grow her business. “I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am for the opportunity I was given in being part of the programme. Our mentors were a great help and I really appreciate the time and effort they invested in us as people and as entrepreneurs. They changed our lives.”

To other young entrepreneurs…

“Be afraid and just do it anyway!”

Images by Devin Lester Photography

Mamelodi is one of 15 communities in 9 towns that is part of Nedbank’s Proud of my Town initiative.