Mbali Mavuso is an entrepreneur who is passionate about restoring the manufacturing sector in South Africa and truly believes that young people have the power to find the solutions within the community.
She studied Information system and technology and continues to further her to studies in civil engineering. Mbali is also the CEO of EBR Industries which she started in 2012. EBR is an engineering company that operates in the manufacturing and civil engineering sector. Her ability to be innovative in all their products and services has directed they growth within the engineering field and continues to do so.
Check out my exclusive interview with Mbali below:
Hey Mbali! Would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?
Well, I am an ambitions and bubbly young woman who grow up in Spruitview. I have the love for breaking the normality by pushing the boundaries. I love finding solutions to problems which was always reflected when I was younger.
I grew up with three siblings and amazing parents. I grew up in the township and had dreams of helping my community at large.
Talk me through an average day in the life of you?
My average day starts at 4:00 am with prayer as the first order of the day, followed by full on activities such as meetings with clients and suppliers. During the day I do site visits and engineering briefs as well as project manager’s updates.
Towards the end of the day I have time specifically for innovative thinking and identification of new opportunities that would help the company to reach its goals.
What institution(s) did you attend and what did you study?
I attended the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and studied Information Technology and system and I also studied at Johannesburg Institute of engineering and technology (JIET) and studied civil engineering. I actually just finished. I also did an entrepreneurship course at Unisa.
When did you decide expand into the manufacturing and civil engineering sector?
When I was doing my second year I used to work for a company as a junior engineer, my focus was of the innovativeness of products for users which I loved however the environment was full of racism and gender inequality was very clear. I then thought if I could have a factory within the township to empower my community it would be a great idea, as well as promote awareness for fellow individuals that it is possible. So I started looking for opportunities and an opportunity came with the assistance and guidance from my dad who has played a huge part in guiding me. I got a chance to buy a section of a business that was not doing well and it took me two years to restore it.
I remember moments when I was writing exams during my studies and I would be working from my mothers garage welding and making metal products the love of manufacturing grow there. South African statics show that manufacturing is a sector that needs work hence the government is creating platforms in order to support this. The truth is there is a lot of artisans, apprentices etc. that could play a big part in solving the countries unemployment rate.
That experience helped me to be able to always look at a customers product and think about making the product user friendly as the world of engineering and technology is continuously changing. With civil engineering my love grow with design of products buildings and hence I curried on studying.
These two fields and most engineering fields are linked everything starts on paper design it and visualize it to minimize cost and the rest is history.
You are in an industry/sector mostly dominated by men, how does that make you feel?
I don’t know if that should really make me happy. No it does not. I think yes its mostly male dominated but women are coming up. Just the rate of catching up is not proportional to the male growth hence the gap is felt.
I believe that its time to allow more women into the sector by empowering them and not closing doors or systems. Its said that women have the ability to pay attention to the finer details and that’s what we need so we can compete and even restore sectors such as manufacturing in SA.
Do you think more women like you are taking up the challenge by venturing into the sector?
There are more women taking up the engineering sectors but not fully in manufacturing . However I see a generation that is full of pushing away from the norm. So I see that there are women out there that are in the sector but not acknowledged.
What is your company “EBR Industries” all about and what are you into?
EBR Industries has the following division:
Manufacturing: This is were hectic innovation takes place and technology place a big part. We manufacture Street lights and Heaters that are user friendly. Imagine products that make life easier by helping you save electricity and help you monitor your electricity usage.
The second division is specialized civil engineering hence the partnerships that we also have, We focus in restoring structural strength of old damaged buildings. With an added benefit to project manage the whole reconstruction. All the designs and innovativeness is done by us the young black township based company.
Which cities/countries do you primarily work in?
We primarily work with in Johannesburg, Boksburg, Germiston and Provinces are Durban and Cape Town and Gauteng but we not limited when the job allows us to go further.
How do you get to know when is the best time to seal a deal?
We find our customers by finding a problem and solving it. Problems concerning manufacturing of a product and Civil engineering works. So deals are sealed when the customer has no one else who came up with a solution on solving the problem. Find the problem and solve it and seal the deal.
What is it like doing business in South Africa?
Not the easiest but it’s worth it because I believe we are still at the stages of restoring our history but mostly our economy. Opportunities are there and are suitable for young people it’s up to us to take them. However we still need to do more interactions with other business in other countries on ground levels.
Does the laws in South Africa encourage Startups and small business owners?
Yes they do your BEEE codes etc do but however not all parties are not playing by the rules. Others work with the BEEE code just to manipulate it and of cause one should not get the job just because you black but because you are capable.
So yes they do but they need work in order to protect the intentions of the laws in place.
Tell me more about your love what you do and how you use it to communicate through business?
For my love for engineering not to be taboo, for the lost hope for manufacturing to be restored. For South Africans to realize that we have the solutions to our own problems and we are capable. I do this by making sure that our company is in consistent development of our employees and equipping them. It’s exciting to see products coming from a township based company and developed and manufactured by individuals who started with nothing but end up playing an important part in the infrastructure of our city and ultimately South Africa. The excitement that I get when I hear one of our employees identifying our product keeps me motivated on making sure that decentralizing the cities in order to move the wealth in the townships is key but still keeping the zenith and quality level.
What will you say motivates/inspires you to stay dedicated to what you do?
I have been through poverty and I have failed but my goal is failing forward but never stop moving. The goal is no regrets but breaking generational curses.
What’s your 5 Dos and Don’ts when it comes to being an entrepreneur?
1. Learn from others, get mentorship
2. Think 10 years ahead don’t just go with what’s happening now.
3. Stay true to you
4. Learn to invest in yourself
1. Don’t run away when facing a challenge
2. Don’t only have people who will tell you how great you are.
What separates you from other entrepreneurs?
What separates me will have to be my innovative eye and problem-solution based thinking.
How do you balance your personal and business life?
Is there ever really a balance? lol . Well I take time out and travel to other countries or provinces just to refresh. Exercise and healthy eating is important also and plays a big part.
What do you consider the most common stereotype about the being a entrepreneur?
That you automatically know everything and no one does hence a strong team is important.
What aspect surprised you the most once you started your business?
That financial common sense is not common hence training needs to be common.
Looking back to when you started, is there anything you would like to change or improve on?
Well I started when I was 23 so no, I would not change anything but I would add more mentors around me.
Which brands, clients, teams, entrepreneurs, investors, etc, have you worked with?
I have worked with Actom, Eskom, Department of Education, Raizcorp and Murray Roberts ,Impendulo Architects, Vut Science park ,Merseta and Chieta, Mandela Washington (Yali) many more honestly and it’s been amazing to learn and supply and have partnerships that ultimately have played a part in our development.
What do you consider your biggest professional success so far?
I think the ability to be able to assist in the development of my employees has been one of those achievements and more project base achievement would be the chance we got to supply products to Medupi plant.
Who do you want to work with that you haven’t yet?
Prasa especially on the train development, Innovation Hub , Sasol.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Bargaining power, the truth is that the field we in has companies who have 20 years of trading experience so when they get the chance to buy Metal they bargaining power is strong and they closed up which makes it hard for new small companies to come into the playground.
Tell us two things people don’t know about you?
That I can dance and I picture myself as a DJ at some point.
You are very active on social media. Do you think its important to be online and if so why?
It’s important to be active but honestly for our business social media is not important but references and past work is. For the purpose of showing the world the culture within the organization than yes we can really show that.
You are a native of South Africa and currently based in Johannesburg. How is that working out for you?
That’s working out well for me however I have also noted that places like Cape Town and Durban there is a lot of development. and abroad so one can’t limit themselves.
What will you say are you must visit travel destinations?
Dubai and Greece.
Name 5 things we should take seriously about our style choices?
I honestly think style should represent who you are and honestly I am not focused on style. I am yet to be schooled.
How would you describe your style?
Really, a work in progress and not bound.
What style genre appeals to you the most?
This will depend on the season I am in my life not stuck to one.
Name your 5 must have accessories/essentials?
My measuring tap, earrings, phone , hand sanitizer and my passport.
What are your favourite fashion trends?
Don’t have any what feels good at that time I will go for it. Why follow trends anyway.
What is your favourite dish?
Amasi and pap.
What songs are currently on your music playlist?
1. Stogie T featuring Nasty C: Clean stuff
2. David Caser: Get you
3. Lianne La Havas: Say a little Prayer
4. Hillsong: Oceans
5. Elevation worship: Do it Again
6. Black coffee ft Nakkane toure : We Dance Again
7. Black motion: Imali
8. Beyoncé: Grown Woman
9. Shekinah: please Mr
10. Ntokozo Mbambo: Breathe Life
Apart from manufacturing, investing, what other projects are you currently working on?
We are in buying and restoring companies.
Seeing you’re doing your dreams, what advice can you give others to pursue their dreams?
Just start, falling is OK. Ask others for guidance that has walked the way but start.
Any specific plans for the future?
We are working on placing our footprint in African countries and the development of EkhuruMarket which is an innovative town that will help decentralize the centralized areas.
Any final words?
Dream big and allow your failures to make you and speak within the success.