Rachel Tladi South African Millionaire in Construction Business

Emerging Entrepreneur finalist 2010
Rachel Tladi - Uvoko Civils
Uvuko Civils was founded by and is 100% owned by Rachel Tladi who started the business with over twelve years of experience in the civil and construction industry. Having qualified as a chartered accountant she had spent some time helping a friend doing his books in his construction business. This friend challenged her to open her own CC seeing her potential to run her own business, which she did while still employed and despite her own uncertainty as to whether she wanted to “run her own thing”. In spite of these reservations, he took her to Pretoria and they registered a CC in her name with five options for the entity name, of which Uvoko was one. While the traditional business of Uvuko is in the building and construction of brick and mortar, they have now expanded the business to include repairs, maintenance, modernization and new installations in the lift (elevator) industry through a relationship with the Department of Public Works.

Rachel Tladi was 43 and working as an accountant in Randburg when a friend challenged her to start her own construction company. “How will I know what to do?” she asked. “I’ll mentor you,” he replied. The rest is history. Uvuko Civils was registered as a closed corporation in 2002 and Tladi has never looked back. She says she sometimes asks herself: Is this me and is it real? Uvuko currently has a CIDB grading of eight and is steadily moving towards joining the league of JSE-listed construction companies by undertaking major civil, maintenance and construction work.

Those first steps back in 2002 were tiny ones. Tladi’s friend, also in the construction industry, kept his promise. He helped her register the company, accompanied her to the SA Revenue Service and the Labour Department and helped her register as a supplier on the database of Rand Water Board. “Two months later Rand Water contacted me asking for a quote for laying pipes. My friend assigned one of his engineers to run the project with me. The condition was that I had to be on site every day.” Those were early days. It wasn’t a big project, but Tladi’s journey to learn everything there was to be learned about the industry commenced. And she loved it.

But it wasn’t always plain sailing. “In particular, 2004 was really tough,” Tladi says. “For months I wasn’t able to pay any salaries.” She had to drastically cut back on her staff and eventually was left with only one. When business eventually started picking up again all her former employees returned. Uvuko’s staff are now members of a pension fund and medical aid and have group insurance.

Tladi’s real break came in 2007, when the housing department chose 10 female contractors to participate in a government empowerment programme. “We were told no guarantees were needed and that we’d be mentored by professionals in the industry.” The participants had three years to complete their project: Tladi completed hers in six months. “When the MEC introduced the programme, she told us: ‘We want you to fly. We want you to compete in your own right with the big players in the industry’.”

Tladi is flying for sure. She was the Govan Mbeki Best Woman Builder of the year in 2008 and the Provincial Govan Mbeki Woman Contactor of the Year last year. She was also awarded the Regional Business Woman Achiever Award (Entrepreneur) this year. “The legacy I want to leave is that women don’t have to stand back,” Tladi says, “We can do anything.”

To Tladi, business resembles building a house. “If the foundation is strong the brickwork will also be. Get the basics right: make sure your company has a proper internal system, including company policies. And do the right thing. Pay the receiver what you owe him, register with whatever body you need to register and make sure your office is in order. That’s essential for sustainability.”

To be noted and respected as a woman in a male-dominated sector Tladi says it helps to ensure you know everything there is to know about the industry. She attributes Uvuko’s success to the fact she has a committed team. “They’re young and talented, mostly black women.” And the list is impressive: civil and electrical engineers, project managers, quantity surveyors, health and safety officers, carpenters and shop-fitters. Part of Uvuko’s policy is empowerment. Employees attend courses to acquire communications skills and even a driver’s licence. It’s successfully completed projects for, among others, Absa, MTN, Eskom and Transnet and has recently diversified into the lift market.

Uvuko’s head office is in Krugersdorp with satellite offices in Kimberley and Polokwane.
Thanks to Finweek

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