While Will Hammers may appear to be a “man of few words”, sitting in the newly renovated CoCreate Hub in Victoria Street, Stellenbosch, it is apparent that Will’s work does a lot of the talking for him. The warm exposed brick walls of the historic building provide a perfect contrast to the clean, modern steel and glass that has been incorporated into the renovation. As both designer and project manager, Will has ensured that the heart of the building is retained, even as it is repurposed to benefit upcoming entrepreneurs in the town.
The owner of Ateljee Will Hammers is an architectural technologist with a diploma in architecture. In his school years, Will liked to draw and considered studying art or graphic design, before making the decision to combine his art with a more practical application. After qualifying, Will worked for different companies between 1990 and 2003 before deciding to set out on his own. He officially registered his own business in 2014.
When talking about the comparison between working for someone else and working for yourself, Will says, “When you work for yourself, you have many bosses”, with each client expecting your attention and priority. Working for yourself has its own pressures, especially finances, and he recalled the lean years around the recession of 2008.
As a resident of Idas Valley, Stellenbosch, Will is not confined by geography and is able to work nationally. While most of his work is local, or in the Western Cape, he has also had a hand in projects around the country. Most of Will’s work has come via word of mouth or on recommendation and he has only recently created a website. He believes that having a good reputation and fair pricing are key to success. While there is an institute that governs the profession and sets guidelines for rates, Will explained that you need to be open to working in all different environments and on all sorts of projects, and this means that to be inclusive, you may need to consider your rates.
When working on a project, there are many different role players – from the client to the contractor, and municipality, and in cases such as the Hub, the heritage resource authority of the province. The designer needs to meet the requirements of each role player when completing a project and they may need to retain the services of other professionals in the design and construction industries to ensure that the project complies with all requirements.
To create more opportunities for himself, Will completed a BTech in Town Planning at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). This means that he does not have to necessarily outsource this part of the planning process, which can help to keep costs down.
Although he worked for other employers throughout the years, Will has always seen himself as an entrepreneur. While most of his projects focus on the design stage of the process, Will also enjoys project management – seeing his designs to completion. He explains that while most clients will have a clear idea of what they want, some are uncertain. As the architectural technologist, your role is to use your insight, knowledge, and creativity to guide your clients so that they can achieve their vision. While Will’s personal style leans towards the modern, he is equally comfortable working on projects that are situated in traditional design, such as the Victorian building in which the new CoCreate Hub in Victoria Street, Stellenbosch, is housed.
Will admits to being fortunate as the management of the Hub project meant that he was not too badly affected by the Covid pandemic. He mentioned that he has ongoing projects as well as future projects that he will be able to tackle once this project is completed. When asked about the importance of the small business sector, Will replied that “small business is tied to the informal economy. This sector is one of the biggest job creators and it is here that people can be upskilled.”
As a part of the Nedbank-funded Ranyaka Building Business programme and the Stellenbosch University Small Business Academy (SBA), Will says, “For me it was realizing that there’s a lot of potential for my business. I don’t have to struggle to be sustainable. There are tools available to grow my business.” He has also had the opportunity to network within the community of entrepreneurs that he has been introduced to by the programmes.
Will’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs: “Don’t listen too much to negative comments. Believe in yourself. An entrepreneur is somebody who creates opportunities for growth, in business and within themselves… it isn’t about being small, even billionaires are entrepreneurs.”