As a young boy growing up in the dusty village of Gondeni la ha Mabilu, Thovhedzo Nethanani watched the elderly people making clay bricks by hand, baking them, and then building their houses.
“I watched elders in my village involved in the back-breaking process of brick-making. Often I would help them, especially when I was building a house of my own. This is how I got first-hand knowledge of brick-making and learned the skills involved.”
Thovhedzo realised that poverty is the biggest challenge in rural areas and that many people struggle to make ends meet. Four years ago he set up a brick-making initiative, providing jobs for 12 local villagers.
“My journey started in 2015 when, armed with a dream but no government funding and no loan, I decided to open what is now known as, Thanani Bricks (Pty) Ltd, at Mbahe village. This business is my way of giving back to the community by ensuring that villagers have quality cement.”
He also made sure that villagers did not have to travel far when they wanted quality bricks and created much needed jobs in the area.
“I also created employment for the previously unemployed, and am now continuing to improve the quality and longevity of village housing structures. I started the business from nothing and could only employ four employees, utilising a single manual machine with a production capacity of 2000 stock bricks or 1 500 maxi bricks a day.”
However, the journey, like many success stories, has not been an easy one. But through resilience, Thovhedzo’s business initiative has become one of the successful youth-led businesses in the area.
Four years after he started, he is able to employ 12 people and has acquired a semi-automatic electric machine, and one eight-ton truck to transport the bricks to clients. This is a significant milestone that has not only increased their production capacity to 15 000 stock bricks or 10 000 maxi bricks a day, but allows them to deliver to their valued customers.
“I am also pleased in that the arrival of the semi-automatic machine has presented us with a new opportunity to make paving bricks. We are currently running a pilot as we would like to test the quality before we start selling them to our clients, as we pride ourselves on the quality of our products.”
Previously, those who had the financial means to buy the bricks instead of making their own, had to travel long distances to go and purchase the bricks – a process that was both expensive and not efficient.
“It is this experience that inspired me to start my brick-making company. I often wondered why someone did not start a business like this in my village when I was growing up, but then I take pride in being the one who is providing a solution and much-needed jobs.”
What warms his heart the most is seeing clients’ reactions when he is able to supply bricks which are better than what the client was expecting.
“It is this fulfilment that motivates me to do even better. Nothing is more satisfying than to see people appreciating your product, and willing you to do more through their support.”
Thovhedzo continues to be positive and inspire many people.
“We are the generation that must uplift and invest in rural areas, instead of focusing on more developed areas,” he says. “In this way, we create job opportunities, impart skills and provide better products and services for rural communities.”
Thovhedzo knows he could not have built his business without the support of his team, and thanks them for working tirelessly, under difficult conditions at times, to make sure that the dream of keeping the project alive and thriving remains a reality.