Burly miller grows rich on fat of the land
WHEN he was 26 and starting out, Petrus Engelbrecht had only one game plan: to be able to retire by age 40.
Now, at only 36, the maize-milling businessman from Maclear is in a position to do just that. But retiring is the furthest thing from his mind - he has just walked off with the Eastern Cape Entrepreneur of the Year award.
"Now I just want to grow and get bigger and bigger. In three years' time, I want business to have doubled," said a thrilled Engelbrecht at the function in Port Elizabeth this week.
BT Money is one of the co-sponsors of the award.
Engelbrecht established Maclear Maize Milling in 1993 in the small town 100km north-west of Umtata when he realised the market for buying and selling whole maize was wide open following the Maize Board's demise.
He bought a building, which included run-down milling equipment, from an insolvent estate.
Today, Engelbrecht's mill employs 121 people and in the first five months of this year alone, had a turnover of R57-million. In the same period, sales of whole maize, and the milling operation, amounted to 110 000 tons.
"Last year, it was 120 000 tons for the full year, and we have almost reached that figure in just five months."
The mill, which has three shifts running 24 hours a day, was upgraded from two tons an hour to 4.5 tons an hour in 1994. The expansion project and extra 20 jobs qualified the close corporation for an incentive benefit from the Department of Trade and Industry.
Engelbrecht's employees are the strategic cogs in his business credo. The mill offers the highest wages in the area and profit incentives are available to key staff members.
"Unemployment is a massive problem in Maclear, so creating jobs has been one of my top priorities," he said. "I firmly believe that you can succeed if you have your employees behind you all the way. To do that, you have to respect and motivate them. Every single one. I know all my staff by their first names - no matter if they're the cleaner or tea-maker, or someone in a more senior position."
Engelbrecht's mill has established a market in the former Transkei region for bagged white and yellow maize, enabling satellite operations - like a bagging plant and transport business - to get started.
The burly businessman, who wants to establish a flour mill, believes deals must be concluded within 48 hours, or written off - a philosophy that has motivated his office staff to get documentation completed immediately.
Engelbrecht's interests in Maclear are not limited to his mill. He owns the Red Lion supermarket as well as Maclear's Royal Hotel. The Royal has been refurbished and upgraded to a two-star establishment.
"Before being upgraded, the hotel had a 32% occupancy rate. Now it's 71%." The supermarket and hotel provide 49 jobs.
A father of two, Engelbrecht is a rugby fan and coaches Maclear's second club rugby team. He serves on the committee overseeing the town's first XV.
"I always said I'll never retire, but that I would like to have achieved a position where I could go at 40.
"I grew up in Maclear, and I want to see it and its people prosper." ý The judges to decide the national Entrepreneur of the Year have been appointed. They are Professor Andy Andrews of the Institute of Management and Technology, Danisa Baloyi of the National Black Business Caucus, Professor Klaas Havenga of the Southern African Entrepreneurship and Small Business Association, Thami Mazwai, publisher of Enterprise, and three representatives from the business sector, Nail's Nthato Motlana, Samson Food Corp's Elaine Strydom and Paarman Food's Ina Paarman. The winner will be announced at a banquet in October.