Max MatavireBy Max Matavire|November 11, 2022|11 Minutes|In Billionaire Today

Billionaire Tomorrow

“I view the presence of men in the industry as a positive threat.”

One of the major reasons why start-ups fail is because the owner wants to be everything: the accountant; auditor; general manager; even cleaner; rather than hiring people to run the business.

This is the advice from one woman, who despite not having a single qualification in engineering, runs a successful civil engineering company, which she started from scratch with no money from anyone.

At 48, Siphokazi Ndlendle of Gqeberha, in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, says a person starting a business might have the vision, but not the expertise.  ”That is exactly what happened to me. I was tired of working for other people and had a vision to start my own business,” she says.

“After having held a couple of jobs with different companies, I decided I wanted to go into construction but I did not have the training nor the qualifications of an engineer. I thought of going back to school to study engineering, but that would take a lot of time as I wanted to be up and running immediately. I had the vision, but I did not have the expertise -still this did not stop me. I brought in an engineering expert and to date, my civil engineering company is thriving. I did not try to do everything on my own,” says  Ndlendle during an interview with Billionaire Tomorrow magazine in Gqeberha.

Born in Mthatha, in 1974, in a family of three; she was the eldest. Siphokazi did her primary education in the rural town before moving to Idutywa, still in the Transkei, for her secondary education.

Brought up by a single mother, a teacher, Siphokazi was drilled in hard work, respect, honesty, and self-belief. These attributes shaped her in business . ”Growing up as the firstborn, I was taught and learnt from the best -my mother. She believed that as a woman, don’t rely on men or your husband if you get married. Work for yourself and be a contributor in the family and not a receiver,” says the single mother of three who is a born again Christian.

In 1998, after completing her secondary education, she moved to then Port Elizabeth and enrolled at the then University of Port Elizabeth (UPE) now Nelson Mandela University (NMU). Knowing that she now is into construction, one would not be wrong in guessing that she enrolled for a science or engineering course  But she did not, instead she studied for a National Diploma in Human Resources.

After completing the three-year course, she could not get a job and returned home to Mthatha. “From then on, after losing my mother in 2001, I started hustling,” she says without explaining exactly what she was doing. But judging from what the word hustling means today, she must have been doing any sorts of jobs that came along. In 2002, she got a job with Old Mutual Schemes and worked for three years before joining Sanlam as an independent financial adviser.

It is when she was with Sanlam that the entrepreneur bug bit: ”I became tired of working for other people and in 2007, I registered my company -Victory Ticket – which was a catering company. My first contract was with the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality – a two-year contract in which I did catering services at all municipal council meetings. Still as ambitious as always, I was not content and wanted to branch into construction, and 2010, I did,” says the slightly built entrepreneur.


Ndlendle says by going into construction -a dog eat dog, rough, corrupt and dangerous industry- she knew exactly where she was throwing herself into.

She says she had fears initially, and also because many women in the construction industry were not making it. After research, she says she discovered that, actually, the industry was booming.

''I know I was not an engineer and did not have the expertise but I wanted to be in the construction industry. First, I thought I should go back to school and obtain the required construction qualifications but again thought this would take longer. Instead, I looked for someone with an engineering background, and in 2011, I was full time into construction,'' she says.

Victory Ticket entered the construction industry as Grade 1 and now 11 years later, it is in Grade 5 which allows it to tender for bigger and much more complex civil engineering projects. Construction companies are registered with the Construction Industry Development Board (CIBD) which classifies them into different categories of seniority and competency. The grading goes up to 11.

Her company’s first construction contract was for six months with the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality in which they did roads, curbing, paving and other civil works in Gqeberha townships throughout the metro. As they were still small, Ndlendle says they subcontracted some of the jobs to bigger companies who would take her under their wing. One such company, which helped Ndlendle, was Mawethu Civils, a well-established operation which had been in existence for some time.

Contract after contract flowed as Ndlendle became known in the industry and even did work throughout the Eastern Cape. The company was also being upgraded in the industry. Because of Covid 19, 2020 was a bad year for a business no matter what industry one was into.

”We wanted something which would bring income as business was at its lowest ebb. We decided to venture into the automotive industry and opened an operation in Durban. We entered into a five-year contract with Wesbank which allowed us to service Wesbank customers’ vehicles. Instead of Wesbank customers taking their cars to the financier for servicing, they would bring them to us and we do it on behalf of Wesbank,” she said. As this is still a relatively new business, it takes most of Ndlendle’s time as she every week travels to Durban. A staunch believer in Black Economic Empowerment, Ndlendle says she supports many other small businesses to grow.

”In my construction business, I bring onboard numerous small entrepreneurs so that they get the necessary experience and improve their capacity. Personally, I did not benefit from any BEE deal, but be that as it may, I believe in it and support it,” says Ndlendle. Explaining how she survives in this male-dominated and rough industry, Ndlendle says, women should not feel small.

”Yes, it’s male-dominated just go get it. Know what you want and stay focused. Don’t dwell on negatives about the industry. I view the presence of men in the industry as a positive threat. They even make me stronger to fight for my place in this industry. People want to complain but the resources and opportunities are there. I urge women to go and grab opportunities in the construction industry. Yes, it’s a rough, corrupt and dangerous industry where one can be killed, but have a positive mindset always,” she says.

She lists some of the attributes which make her a go-getter as ”a strong character and independent”. Her advice to business colleagues is not to take shortcuts and expect quick rewards. Cut your dress according to your cloth, she says.

On where she sees herself in the next five to 10 years, she says: ”I am building an empire. In the next five to 10 years, I see myself as a mentor of young upcoming entrepreneurs and grooming them to become big, successful businesspeople. I encourage upcoming business people to keep and maintain the culture of business and to focus on where you want to go, be honest, humble, and ethical,” she says.

Ndlendle says one must market their business, adding that her HR qualification, helped her a lot in how to deal with different people and handle tricky situations. ”The economic cake is big enough to go round, so people must not be greedy; let us share equally,” she warns.

Wise words in this desperate age of greed and fear.