Vuyani Ngidi (32), from Folweni in KwaZulu-Natal, believes that entrepreneurship is all about passion, resilience, being innovative and dreaming big.
Ngidi is the founder of Softex Feathers, established in 2012. This company is based in Westmead, Pinetown, and manufactures bulk toilet papers and distributes them to various retail outlets, including selected Spar outlets and small wholesalers around KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).
“The business is doing well. The demand is continuously growing at a fast pace. The general response and awareness towards our brand has been great and we have further business possibilities in the pipeline, so we are confident about the future,” he said.
When Ngidi started his business, funding was the biggest stumbling block in his way. “This type of business requires a lot of capital for all the equipment needed and we had a difficult time getting funding,” he said.
Without experience in this industry, he sought other means to get the operation going and self-funding was the only alternative to get his company off the ground. Getting the product to the end user was the next biggest challenge.
Ngidi’s business currently employs 20 employees across its various departments. He said they have started negotiating with various economic players in KZN.
“This includes government, state-owned companies and retail chains. Although these negotiations are progressing well, there are still challenges for us as a new entrant in the market, but we are not fazed, as we understand that this is not going to be an easy task,” he said.
He said they have chosen the toilet paper business, as they want a product that will appeal to everyone, without gender or race limitations. “We also wanted something that has an endless demand,” he said.
Ngidi is a qualified dental technologist with a BTech from the Durban University of Technology. He has been in an entrepreneurship for more than a decade and had initiated other businesses before he incepted Softex Feathers.
“I was the founder and MD of Ethekwini Dental Laboratories, which was established after I graduated,” he said.
Although this business is still operating and servicing a number of dental professionals in KZN, Ngidi has since relinquished his responsibilities as the MD.
“I have assumed the role of Chairman in the Softex in order to focus on the task at hand,” he said.