Last week, South African State-owned power utility, Eskom, highlighted that its Contractor Academy has provided Durban-based Cecilia Maronko, with invaluable skills to explore her own entrepreneurial interests.
The businesswoman particularly regards the project management and financial management skills she gained in the academy as the most significant as these helped her in establishing her two businesses.
Cecilia left her job as a human resources business partner at the South African Breweries in 2014, to join her husband to start Paintage, a painting and waterproofing business. She has also established a human resources consultancy firm, Limbani & Associates.
“The biggest fear I had when I started was that I might not have the requisite knowledge to run a business as this was a big step and unchartered territory for both my husband and I. I soon joined the Shanduka Black Umbrellas initiative, where one of the managers recommended that I enrol for the Eskom Contractor Academy course.
“When I started on the course, I had no expectations at all and was just looking forward to learning and absorbing as much as I could,” says Cecilia.
“The best way I can describe my experience in the academy is that it was life-changing and this is based on the impact it had on me as a new entrepreneur. Often you don’t realise the value of what you’re learning, until you get to apply it and this was the case with me,” she adds.
Eskom Contractor Academy
The Contractor Academy course is offered to contractors and suppliers wishing to improve their skills in project and financial management, entrepreneurship, legislation and technical acumen over eight months, with one-week course attendance every month.
Eskom believes that by equipping small and emerging business people with the necessary skills required to build sustainable businesses, the country can address some of its socio-economic challenges.
While attending the course, Maronko realised that the element of labour law was missing in the people management module. She drafted a proposal for the academy to incorporate it as she deemed it imperative.
“At times, especially in small businesses, we don’t give our employees proper contracts or register them for things like the Unemployment Insurance Fund, because we think such things are only for big companies. My proposal covered such basics as well as the labour relations amendments and how they apply to small businesses,” declares Cecilia.
Cecilia’s proposal was met favourably and she was asked to prepare a presentation on the subject.
Seeing how passionate she was about this, she was given an opportunity to join the academy as a facilitator. From this process, she saw an opportunity to start her human resources consultancy firm, which partners with and helps businesses grow by attracting and training the right human resources practitioners to look after their employees.
“We also partner with Eskom to train small businesses on the human resources fundamentals they need to have in place,” says Maronko.
She added: “Having started my journey as an entrepreneur, I know that it can be quite daunting for beginners, especially with all the scary numbers of the businesses that fail within their first year. I hope and wish however, that up-and-coming entrepreneurs would not let anything intimidate them and they should jealously protect and fight for their dreams, especially young people and women in particular. With initiatives such as the Contractor Academy, help exists out there and emerging entrepreneurs just have to find it.”