1. Can you please tell us more about your business?
A. Ifutho Investments(pty)Ltd trading as Ifutho paper is a company that was established more than 2 years ago with a vision to create a world-class integrated service in the photocopying paper industry. We specialise in the supply and delivery of photocopying paper. We have our own brand Ifutho paper, its 80gsm in size, available in sizes A4 and A3, white in colour, it comes in 500 per ream and 5 reams per box. It is compatible with all printing machines, copiers, and inkjet machines.
2. When, how, and why did you start your business?
A. The idea was born in 2016, through research I realised that the market is dominated by two giants. Paper is used on daily basis in both private and public institutions, almost every office has a photocopying machine that requires photocopying paper, therefore, there was a market for a new brand to be introduced.
Due to lack of funding and financial difficulties the machine was imported in 2017 and it exhausted all the financing, since we are self-funded we had sell other brands of paper to get the feel of the market and generate some money to assist with the Ifutho paper operation that commenced in 2018 November till to date.
3. What is your role in the business?
A. Ifutho is still a small company that only has 2 employees with the hope to hire more as we grow. At this point, I do almost everything in the business. I mostly do sales and introducing the brand to the market and do related administration. I also oversee the production side of things and do deliveries. I enjoy doing deliveries because it allows me to interact with customers and that helps in creating meaningful relationships making the process more than just a transaction but personal as well.
4. Where did you study, and what did you study?
A. I studied at the University of South Africa BA (communication) and did my honours in Media and cultural studies at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal. The company that sold us the machine trained me on operations and understanding the paper industry at large.
5. How did you finance your business?
A. Unfortunately, I did not receive any funding, Institutions are always skeptical in funding ideas, the business was self-funded. We received funding last year from Avon Peaking power as I was part of their incubation programme, this year we were funded by the NYDA and that assisted us in buying our raw materials.
6. Describe your average workday, if such a thing exists.
A. On normal days I work Monday to Friday from morning until 4h00pm or 4h30pm. On hectic days I am at work for as long as I am needed.
7. How do you balance your home life and your work life?
A. It a continuous struggle that I do not think I will ever master. When I am at work, I try to put in my all and do my best so when I am at home, I will give my full attention to my family, however, there are days where I take work home. There also days where I leave work to fetch my kids from school so it’s a matter of making it work one day at a time.
8. What drives you and inspires you?
A. Learning new things that broaden my horizon and knowledge, I am always eager to learn. I am inspired by women in business; Khanyi Dhlomo (owner of Ndalo Media and editor of Destiny magazine) to be specific. I was raised by a very hard-working mother, she had an 8 am to 5 pm job and a side hustle for extra income but still managed to come home and cook us a nice meal. That is where I draw my strength from.
9. Where and when do you have your best ideas?
A. Best ideas come when I am relaxed and taking time to myself that is why it is particularly important for me to take care of my brain because it’s my powerhouse. I need to feed it with positive things so it will be productive and not be clouded by negative things that may prevent me from broadening my horizon and think of new things and possibilities.
10. Where and how do you market/advertise your business for sales leads?
A. As a small business, cash flow is always a challenge, so I use social media platforms Facebook and Instagram to be exact. We also use traditional media like flyers and branding when we are attending exhibitions. Platforms like exhibitions help us meet potential clients and gives us a chance to network.
11. What is next for your business?
A. We need to get full print in KwaZulu Natal that will allow us to grow and expand to other provinces as well. The bigger picture is to supply our neighboring countries and getting the brand known internationally.
12. What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs hoping to start their own business?
- Self -doubt is the enemy of success, therefore they must stop doubting themselves and give it a chance they will be surprised how strong and capable they are.
- Do not be afraid to fail and make mistakes; thats how you learn and grow.
- Do not be afraid to start small while you have a bigger picture in your mind and always keeping your eyes on the prize.
Mbalenhle Ngcobo is a 27-year-old, she’s the Director of Ifutho investments (pty)Ltd trading as Ifutho paper, She holds a BA (communication science) UNISA, Hon(media and cultural studies) UKZN and business programmes through Ilembe incubator and Raizcorp incubator. She is ambitious, hardworking, and passionate about women’s empowerment. Apart from spending time with her family, Mbali enjoys running and live shows. Follow her business page on Facebook: Ifutho paper, Instagram: Ifutho_paper.