The young woman from Limpopo enrolled for a construction management and quantity surveying course instead.
She then continued her studies with a BTech in Construction Management from Tshwane University of Technology. “While I was studying, I began to realise the importance of construction. A strong construction industry equals a strong economy,” she says.
After completing her studies, she began working at C-Pro Construction, where she met her mentor Jannie Smith.
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She only wanted to work for three years in the private sector in Gauteng before returning to Limpopo, but Smith persuaded her to join him in establishing a new firm.
“We were both involved in the construction of Randridge Mall in Johannesburg. After the completion of the shopping centre, we saw the gap in the market and that’s when we opened Smith & Madisha Construction,” she says.
Six years after co-founding the company the age of 24, she started another business focused on designing and manufacturing women’s safety wear.
“I partnered with a friend of mine, Leago Selahle, who designs the clothing. She is from a mining background and we shared challenges concerned with safety clothing. After discussing this topic, we came up with She’s Alice.”
To counter funding issues at the construction company, Madisha and Smith had to borrow money from the latter’s bond and offered services that did not require significant capital, such as doing programmes for clients.
She’s Alice benefits from assistance from Madisha’s construction company and most of the funding comes through personal investment in the business.
Madisha says when she started in the sector, she knew it was not going to be easy. “I put all my emotions aside and concentrated on the vision we had. Collaborating with Jannie to overcome obstacles and fix problems in the business is another way we put our skills to use.”
She believes that strong networks are formed on construction projects because teamwork is required to get the job done.
Madisha says challenges in the construction sector will not limit further achievements.
“What has kept me going is that I am a business person before I am a woman in construction. What matters is not how I feel or how the other person feels, but it is about the job that has to be done.”
Cash flow issues due to late payments and recruitment remain constraining factors.
“We took our time to study our contracts and as soon as the client pays late, we issue contractual letters and that puts the client under pressure to comply. And the other thing we did regarding cash flow is expanding the business to encompass plant hire, training, property, project management and women’s safety clothing,” she says.