Richards Bay entrepreneur Nakhokonke Mngadi (34) will always have a market for his product – life-giving water.
South Africa is a water-scarce country and Richards Bay is one of the areas that face potable water challenges. Mngadi’s business, Vawter Water, purifies water.
Mngadi says the idea to start this business came to him in 2016 when his city was faced with a water crisis.
In September 2016, the City of uMhlathuze issued a warning not to consume the tap water after high levels of manganese were detected in water samples. The water did not taste good and it contained a bad smell. It is there that I saw people needed a safe and reliable alternative.”
Manganese is a greyish-white metal that is used in making steel and can be harmful to the body.
In 2018, Mngadi took part in the Sasol-I-Am-Preneur incubation programme after doing research about affordable drinking water to meet the region’s needs. The programme helped him focus his thoughts and gain the resources to start his business.
“The training helped with marketing and business and financial management skills,” he says.
Between 2018 and 2021, he successfully applied to the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environment Affairs’ Operation Vula Business Fund, which granted him R200 000 seed funding.
“I had to remain patient and persistent as the COVID-19 pandemic stalled the application process. While many of my peers were giving up and becoming despondent, I pushed on,” he says.
In 2021, he applied online for funding from the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) and was granted R43 000, which he used to purchase a water softener and fridge, and brand his refilling station and bottles. Water softeners remove harmful minerals and some metals from water, to make it safe to drink.
Vawter Water now produces 250-litres an hour and Mngadi would like to increase this to more than 3 000-litres a day, to meet the needs of his community.
To apply for seed funding through Operation Vula, visit 270 Jabu Ndlovu Street, Pietermaritzburg, go to www.operationvula.gov.za, email [email protected](link sends e-mail) or [email protected](link sends e-mail), or call 0800 333 667.
Written by Kgaogelo Letsebe
This article was originally published in the GCIS Vuk’uzenzele.