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Lack of Affordable Detergents Provides Business Opportunity for Doctoral Candidate

2017/07/29 07:44:29 PM

Dlamini Chemicals, Student Entrepreneurship Week, UKZN, Chemistry

Ms Nomandla Ngcoya

Behind the new, 100% black-owned start-up company, Dlamini Chemicals, is trail-blazing Ms Nomandla Ngcoya, who was named as one of the Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans in Science and Technology last year.

The UKZN PhD candidate, who completed a BSc degree in Chemistry and Chemical Technology, is currently researching the synthesis, biological evaluation and molecular docking of coumarin-curcumin hybrids as well as running her business.

Ngcoya founded the Pinetown-based Dlamini Chemicals in July last with Ms Lindiwe Nxele and Ms Nontobeko Dlamini. The trio established the company after learning through door-to-door studies done in rural communities about how dire the need for affordable detergents was to improve sanitation in those areas.

Ngcoya says her biggest inspiration is her love of independence and a fear of mediocrity, leading her to put her academic and research expertise to work to establish a solution to a problem she identified. Her research and laboratory skills and knowledge of chemicals have aided her in the prototype development as well as in recovering chemical products damaged during the manufacturing process.

Start-up capital was difficult to acquire so Ngcoya and her colleagues searched for innovative solutions. The three of them had to learn on the go, with only their goals as guidance as they developed their entrepreneurial skills through trial and error.

Ngcoya advised prospective entrepreneurs to seek out ways to learn business management, financial management and marketing skills. She also credited the vital assistance they received from the Durban Chemical Cluster for their project implementation.

Dlamini Chemicals’ products are currently being sold in rural areas and townships, while the trio works to get the products bar-coded to allow for marketing in mainstream retail stores. Their strategy thus far has been to introduce products that are similar to those consumers are familiar with and then gradually introduce customers to more innovative products such as a washing powder that does not require rinsing. They are applying their in-house expertise in partnership with the Technology Innovation Agency, which is also funding Dlamini Chemicals.

Ngcoya said setting up the business took time and energy but it was worth it to learn skills to enable one to become self-sufficient. ‘Patience is key in entrepreneurship and that cannot be taught,’ she said.

She encouraged prospective entrepreneurs to be innovative and especially to learn the difference between incremental and radical innovation to ensure the success of a company. She encouraged graduates to be risk takers and seize opportunities and to put in the extra effort constantly

Christine Cuénod


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