Zwelethu Ndhlovu

Owner, East Rand Toilet Hire

When Zwelethu Ndhlovu finished school, he wanted to join East Rand Toilet Hire, the family business. He had been involved in it since childhood, answering phone calls for a small wage. Although it wasn’t doing too well, he recognised its potential and wanted to shake things up.
His mother, however, wouldn’t hear of it. So Ndhlovu enrolled for a commerce degree at the University of the WItwatersrand, and headed straight to work after lectures. He managed to get his hands on a remote message retrieving answering machine, which he had seen on an American sitcom, and recorded a message on it that guaranteed a call back within 45 minutes (the length of a university lecture). As soon as he could, he would rush to a pay phone, retrieve his messages and return calls. His attention to customer service paid off, and today, with Ndhlovu at the helm, East Rand Toilet Hire is a multimillion-rand business that has made its mark in the events and construction industries.
“Initially, the business did toilet hire for weddings and funerals in townships,” Ndhlovu recalls. “If there was no business over the weekend it was a financial shock. I then established the long term/construction toilet hire division, which although it has low profit margins, if scaled up quickly, would provide enough annuity income to cover all the basic costs of running the business. This was the breakthrough.”
Ndhlovu then turned his focus to improving his quality of service. “We were so good, clients would merely switch to us when they heard about us, often leaving the large corporations for us,” he recalls.
His goal is to grow the business into the largest black-owned toilet hire company in the country, worth in excess of R100- to R200-million. “The end goal would then be selling the business and I would use my proceeds to further my passion, working with the youth to develop their own businesses.”
— Fatima Asmal

Twitter: @JustZweli