Business Entity of the Year Award -- Small
This award is given to a business entity that has shown significant growth and development while contributing to the upliftment of the community.
The finalists for the 2011 Small Business Entity of the Year Award are:
Auto Mia trading as Sportline Auto
In 1988, Mohammed Aadil Mia was one of the first Indian apprentices at a Mercedes-Benz dealership, a career he chose following his loving father’s sage advice that “a man who works with his hands never loses his shirt”. With hard work and a natural flair for technology, he was promoted to workshop foreman and moved to Tzaneen where the dealership required a technically-proficient workshop manager. In 2003, with extensive knowledge of the intricacies of this brand and a reputation for being an expert in diagnosing and repairing “problem cars”, he rented a workshop in Mayfair and opened his own service repair centre. His wife, Miriam, joined him to manage the non-technical aspects of the business and this dynamic duo has grown Sportline Auto from a one-man workshop with a handful of tools and one diagnostic machine, to a fully equipped state-of-the-art facility employing highly skilled auto technicians, an auto electrician, repair shop assistants and an administrative and support team.
The business specialises in offering Mercedes-Benz owners whose motor plans have expired the benefit of dealership-trained technicians at reasonable rates. Sportline Auto also offers free advice, vehicle inspection and valuation for customers who want to buy or sell used vehicles and has developed a reliable reputation within the community. Mia attributes his success to his philosophy of giving good honest service and taking his clients’ financial needs into account. He invests in on-going training to ensure his team is familiar with cutting-edge technical diagnostic equipment and is committed to developing them professionally and personally. As demand grows, the workshop space will be increased and facilities will be enhanced. Sportline Auto, a member of the Capricorn Society and the Retail Motor Industry, lives up to its slogan of “Mercedes Benz makes the car, Sportline Auto makes the difference”.
While on a hajj pilgrimage in 2006, Mohammed Hoosain Majid felt the time was right for him to take a leap of faith and start his own business. With 28 years’ experience in the tile industry, he embraced the challenge, accepted that there would be hurdles and thanks to the Almighty’s grace, his small professional team and loyal clients, he has made a success of the venture. Majid admits there were many times when he lay awake in the lonely hours of the night wondering whether he was wise to give up a good job and reliable income, but he remained confident that Allah would not let him down. During the day there was no room for doubt as he loaded and unloaded heavy tiles, advised customers and made personal deliveries with his legendary humility.
Tile Solutions’ first showroom was an ambitious showroom in the Northlands Deco Park which had easy access to his target markets, but as the Johannesburg inner city regeneration developed, the business moved to Ophirton to be closer to the central business district. Although he secured many lucrative big contracts, Majid continues to serve small customers with enthusiasm saying “many small fish fill the bowl”. So if you want a kilogram of grout, you will be warmly welcomed. Business has grown through repeat customers and word-of-mouth referrals.
The only advertising Tile Solutions has is on its vehicles, but its range of quality tiles and products combined with personal customer service is sufficient endorsement to establish the brand and grow the client base. In the four and a half years as an independent retailer and wholesaler, Majid has learned many valuable lessons, which includes to always listen, look and learn. He acknowledges his supportive wife and team, saying, “It is important to remember where we came from and to respect everyone because the more we give, the more we will get.”
Aslam Vawda has travelled a challenging, yet successful road since he started with one ladder, a hand-held drill and an old-fashioned screwdriver, growing his family business from a dream to a successful team of creative and technically-competent craftspeople. In 1972 when he was in matric, he lost his father. As the only son he had to support his mother and sister, so with no experience and a wage of R250 a month, he joined his uncles in the family grocery and clothing shop, Shota’s Corner Store. As competing against supermarket chains became increasingly challenging, the family became specialists in supplying school wear and then diversified into bedding, curtaining and fabrics. When his uncles retired, Vawda focused on growing the curtaining business, sourcing fabrics, overseeing the manufacturing process and installing curtains after hours.
In 1993 Vawda’s Curtaining moved into a much larger 100m2 premises, signaling the potential growth in the curtain business. With five staff, one machinist and a production workshop housed in his garage, he soon transformed the business risk into a flourishing industry. Within three years, Vawda’s Curtaining had to undergo a paradigm shift to meet the challenges of the competitive interior home décor domain. Vawda borrowed the one-stop-shop concept from his formative business years and moved to much larger three-floor 650m2 premises with one floor dedicated to showroom sales and a production workshop. The phenomenal growth in the business saw the staff grow to 75 and a fleet of 10 vehicles for installation teams.
Vawda attributes his success to communication and planning, great customer service, reliable and dedicated staff and a genuine love for what he does. The company is opening a new 2 000m2 flag-ship store in the industrial hub of Springfield Park in Durban to showcase its extensive range of curtaining and related products, all of which offer quality and affordability.
Although he tip-toed into the world of interior décor, fourteen years ago he saw an opportunity in the blind market and offered associates the opportunity to invest R1 000 in a manufacturing venture. With five others who shared his vision, he opened a factory called The Blind Syndicate in Verulam. Business grew steadily and the company now employs 95 staff. Vawda’s Curtaining has established an enviable reputation for production ethics and innovative productivity, winning numerous awards, including a new product introduction award from government. Looking back on his achievements, he says: “God is Great.”
This article originally appeared in the Mail & Guardian newspaper as an advertorial supplement