Entrepreneurial Journey: WHD Engineering

Author: Steve Reid: Centre for Entrepreneurship / Rapid Incubator Manager

Olga Davids from WHD engineering is a graduate from the CFERI incubation program.
Whilst she completed her incubation in 2019, her husband and business partner, Warren Davids, completed his qualification at Westlake nearly 20 years ago. (2001)

This brief story relates to their entrepreneurial journey from 2015, culminating in a successful application for funding in March 2020. This funding will position them strategically for growth into the next few years.

 Olga and Warren1. Tell us about the Business.

In February 2015, after years of experience in the Engineering industry and working in various roles / positions for a number of Engineering Companies, Warren Davids registered his own Company as he realized that he could create much more value in the Engineering market and industry. Warren obtained his qualification in Fitting and Turning from False Bay College in 2001 and his Red Seal certification from Northlink in 2012, and is currently the Operations Director of WHD Engineering (Pty) Ltd.
Olga obtained her degree in business administration from Stellenbosch University in 2006 and worked for Absa Bank for 11 years before joining WHD Engineering (Pty) Ltd in May 2017 as Managing Director. WHD has a dynamic team with 6 team members.
Their business services includes: Precision Engineering; General Engineering; Sales and Reconditioning of industrial geared motors and Environmental Management (recently incorporated in the business).

2. What makes their offering special?
Good financial results; Excellent customer service resulting in happy / satisfied clients; Innovation; Excellent marketing strategy; Ability to adapt to change; Staff wellbeing and flexibility and Resilience
Our strategy and implementation is a very straightforward approach by extending our products and services to potential clients via every cost-effective
approach possible and we do believe that our combined service offering is very unique and gives us the extra edge to be more profitable and staying ahead of our competitors.

3. Value added through the Incubation programme?
The programme assisted a great deal to increase productivity of all their employees, including herself by motivation and continuous training and implementing the knowledge gained into the day-to day operations of the business as well as improvement of innovation.
It assisted with a deeper understanding of her role of being a co-owner, changing management skills to leadership skills which directly impacted in boosting personal and staff morale and created a more enjoyable work environment and dynamic team. She personally gained the ability to set business goals and use the organizational skills to focus their energies to take the business to the next level.

4. What was your biggest challenge?
Business growth and diversifying their customer base was and is still the most challenging factor for most small businesses and being such a young company, it makes it even harder to compete with the Engineering business who have been in the industry for two decades or more. As the Managing Director, she is responsible for marketing and growing their customer base too which job is not very enviable at all and it you do get discouraged when something goes wrong or when the business doesn’t grow as fast as you'd like it to grow. What helped us as the management team was to delegate tasks to our team and taking ourselves out of the production end so that we could focus more on managing and growing the business more effectively. Being able to overcome self-doubt is also a necessary quality as an entrepreneur and having family and friends who knows and supports your goals through the darkest days surely motivates you on your path to business success.

5. Tell us about your recent funding.
Funding for a growing enterprise is often a challenge and Olga and Warren spent much time in 2019 seeking appropriate funding. In the face of many “rejections”, they persevered. Early applications were not approved but they persevered into late 2019. Finally, in March this year, they received a loan/grant. The facility awarded is in the amount of R2.2 million of which R860k is a grant and R1.34 million loan portion. This funding will be used for the purchase Machinery (Lathes/Milling machines and delivery vehicles, as well as an input into cashflow.

6. As a female entrepreneur in a manufacturing environment, what advice can you share?
Being a female entrepreneur, especially with no engineering degree in a male dominated industry is very challenging and tough but equally rewarding experience and taught her great self-discovery and how to believe in herself. She managed to gain respect from clients and suppliers by showing that she could get her hands dirty and was willing to learn and do whatever it takes. “As women, we need to encourage other women to follow their dreams and share our experiences so that we can learn from each other - this is how we grow personally and professionally.
During this pandemic, use the time to re-look at your company strategies and values, ensure your employee safety and adhere to covid regulations, take it one day at a time and know that this shall pass too.”

7. Any Closing words?
Concentrate on your strengths; Take risks, even if you make a mistake; Stay positive and never give up. “On a personal note - have Faith in God, yourself and your capabilities”