Business savvy sisters self-funded the first company to bring plastic bricks to SA - ‘I left my auditing job to do this’
They were raised without traditional gender roles or limitations.
Their father, Thabo Tsiloane, had a construction company, and they developed their interest in construction and building materials through helping out at the company.
Sisters Kedibone Refilwe Tsiloane (29) and Kekeletso Pulane Tsiloane (26) from Sasolburg, Free State, used to visit their father on-site, assisted with basic bookkeeping.
They now own Ramtsilo Manufacturing & Construction, the first company to bring the plastic brick to South Africa.
Their father, Thabo, was not surprised when his daughters wanted to venture into the construction business, and he even helped name their business.
"When my father named our business, he wanted something meaningful. Ram was my grandfather's nickname, and Tsilo is one of our clan names," says Kedibone.
Being taught at home that nothing is impossible is what kept them pursuing significant goals and through hard work and committment, they have proven that no industry is closed to women.
The bricks that Ramtsilo Manufacturing & Construction makes are great at insulating noise, and their significant advantage over conventional bricks is that they are thinner and lighter.
"The reason we do what we do is that we know it will create sustainable jobs for people in our communities, and also, we help clean the environment with recycling," says Kedibone. She says her sister loves green living, and this eco- friendly business solves the plastic waste problem while providing a sustainable housing solution.
The projects they work on are an accurate representation of how far they have come since the day they decided to start their own construction company in 2013. They have made sewer yard connections, including manhole cleaning and replacement, as well as road construction.
"One of the most significant projects we worked on is the construction of low-cost housing, and the biggest order was delivered to a hardware store in Northern Cape.
In October 2019, Kedibone decided to quit her auditing job and fully take control of the business, with her sister, who is currently studying civil engineering. "We only started with about R5 000, which we used for the prototype. Then the rest of the money came from my pocket since between me and my sister I was the one who was working," says Kedibone.
"One of the challenges that we faced and still are facing, is sometimes not being taken seriously, people questioning whether we would be able to deliver the work. We are not just black females, we also look young, so that creates a barrier."
They advise young people who want to venture into the construction field, "We never knew when we were beginning that there was a need for prototyping, which is the most expensive thing to do and is very important in the business."
Kedibone says the Department of Trade and Industry has R5 million available for funding prototypes, so people need to do as much research as they can. But the most important thing is to start when you have an idea.
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What helped the two sisters was creating networks and entering as many competitions as possible.
"People have no idea that there are competitions out there that can assist you financially," says Kedibone adding that these have helped solidify their business.
They came first place at the Sasol Enterprising Women Program facilitated by the Northen Province University.
Ramtsilo Manufacturing & Construction was also recognised at the 2019 Standard bank Top Women pitching conference in the Free State, Engen Pitch & Polish, powered by Raizcorp and SAB Social Foundations Social Innovation Awards.
Raizcorp provided them with pitching training where the facilitator takes the participants through a workshop designed to develop lateral-thinking skills, and works with the entrepreneurs to improve (polish) their pitches. Engen awarded R30 000 towards their business.
In 2018, Ramtsilo Manufacturing & Construction won an investment into machinery from the Department of Small Business in the Free State.
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