Paint is big business, something Cate Olifant, founder and CEO of Akani Paints (Pty) Ltd in South Africa, knows all about. Her manufacturing business, launched in 2015, focuses on producing water based paint for commercial and industrial markets. Today, the business employs 8 permanent staff members, many from local townships. Cate has been recognised for her business acumen with the Business Achiever Award 2018 for Emerging Entrepreneur by the Limpopo Business Women’s Association of South Africa. She has more than 15 years of business experience as a former contractor.
LoA chatted to Cate Olifant this month to find out more about the business of paint manufacturing and its impact as a job creator.
“I used to be in the construction industry and realized that, in fact, companies which make more money on projects are manufacturers and suppliers.”
What does your company do?
We’re a paint manufacturing business which specializes in water based products. We manufacture PVA and acrylic paints which are internal and external paints, roof and floor paints and waterproofing.
What inspired you to start your company?
I used to be in the construction industry and realized that, in fact, companies which make more money on projects are manufacturers and suppliers. Therefore, I started doing my feasibility study on building projects and that’s when I decided that paint manufacturing is something I could do. After gathering enough research information, I visited some big paint manufacturing factories, meeting specialist advisers including the founders or CEOs of the companies. However, I was heavily discouraged to start such a business without a chemical industry background or chemical qualifications. But because I was determined in starting a paint manufacturing business, I made sure I surrounded myself with industry experts as mentors. I also attended as many specialist short courses as possible available in the industry and hired experts and experienced individuals.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
Our customer service. Because we’re based in a semi-rural area where my business is the only paint manufacturer, our customers have the privilege of customizing their own product the way they want it, including the colours. We’re also honest about our products and service. Some customers are curious and want to verify that we definitely produce our own paints, so on an appointment basis, we give them a tour around the factory and our lab. This is especially the case for contractors where sometimes they’re forced to use a tested paint or SABS approved paint in their projects.
“I started doing my feasibility study on building projects and that’s when I decided that paint manufacturing is something I could do.”
“Because I was determined in starting a paint manufacturing business, I made sure I surrounded myself with industry experts as mentors.”
Tell us a little about your team
I have a team of 8 people who share the Akani Paints’ vision of success. My team are willing, determined to bring their best to their roles and able to leverage failure without losing confidence, since every business has many unknowns. As a small business and facing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important to have energy around my team. We achieve this by motivating them and empowering them with new technology skills.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I grew up in a family business. I watched my father go bankrupt but saw him try to bounce back, however due to his age he had to retire. Having him as my example helped me build my “entrepreneurial stomach” and taught me to manage difficult situations. I learned to separate my business ambitions from the rest of my life and not allow setbacks to destroy me emotionally. What I’m learning on this journey is entrepreneurship demands patience!
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
My business future plans are to be an accredited workplace where I can share the chemical skills with our rural and township youth. I believe the chemical industry has a lot of potential in assisting our youth to be self-employed.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
It is to help shape the future of our youth and our rural communities.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Look for the learning experience in everything and remember that excuses get you nowhere – not with dissatisfied clients, customers, or employees. If you mess up, fess up.
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Why LoA loves it…
As a woman, starting a new business in a tough industry sector such as manufacturing, chemicals or construction can be daunting at the best of times. But for Cate Olifant, her vision for starting a paint manufacturing business in the face of others telling her it could not be done, has driven her to achieve success and industry recognition. Today, she is building a growth business that shows everything is possible with the right vision and determination, and at the same time, she is creating opportunities and jobs for local people. She is an inspiration to other women. — Melanie Hawken, founder & ceo of Lionesses of Africa