2012 winner, William Duk, takes his business to new heights

William-web

In light of the recent launch of the 2014 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year competition, which aims to honour, benefit and uplift local entrepreneurs, William Duk of Plantation Shutters and overall 2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year, shares his experiences and discusses how his participation in the competition is still having a positive impact on his business.

Duk says that winning the award was a very powerful affirmation and acknowledgement of all the hard work that everyone in the business had put it over the six year period since reviving Plantation Shutters. “There was an extra degree of pride or confidence that suddenly everybody had, based on the credibility that something like this award brings. This, for me, was and has been the most significant aspect of the award.”

Duk’s entrepreneurial success began with a classic stroke of luck. He was in the process of purchasing an industrial building just outside of Cape Town when he stumbled upon a small bankrupt company operating within the premises, and in the spur of the moment, made the decision to take over the business.

Within five years of purchasing Plantation Shutters, a business that designs, manufactures and installs adjustable window and door shutters, Duk doubled the work force and increased its turnover tenfold. The various positive spin-offs from winning the competition has ensued a further 30% growth for the business in 2013, resulting in Plantation Shutters being closer to a R50 million business.

“The credibility of the award has had a positive impact in offering peace of mind to clients choosing to work with Plantation Shutters. When clients are parting with a 50% deposit for a premium product, the award further endorses their purchasing decision, which is definitely a good thing.”

He says that the publicity that the award generated for his business has also provided much more than any marketing budget could have ever achieved.

Apart from Plantation Shutters becoming a thriving business, another business opportunity presented itself to Duk a few months after the winning the competition which enabled him to maximise the mentorship programme which formed part of his prize. The mentorship opportunity enables entrepreneurs to seek valuable advice from a business leader in a similar industry in order to further develop and drive their business.

This new business opportunity presented itself when Duk was approached a couple of years earlier to assist value a business that supplies valves to the mining and related industries across Africa. While a buyer was found, this deal fell through towards the end of 2012 and presented Duk with the opportunity to purchase the business himself.

One of the hurdles to this opportunity was that the business was turning over well in excess of R100 million and the sellers wanted R35 million. “I didn’t have a cent spare cash as I was still busy paying the original founding partner in Plantation Shutters, who I bought out two years ago. I also didn’t particularly want an equity partner as that would have been a very expensive path.”

This predicament resulted in Duk contacting Business Partners Limited to claim his mentorship package, in order to obtain guidance on how best to raise capital. “While the amount needed was outside of Business Partners non-equity based lending criteria, I was put in personal contact with FNB who are very aggressive in the debt based leveraged financing space. Only 10 days later I put in an offer for R35 million which was accepted subject to due diligence, which was primarily around being able to raise the money.”

Duk says that there is no doubt that winning the award in 2012, combined with the favourable turnaround of Plantation Shutters, is what provided the credibility required to raise the cash.

With Duk’s entrepreneurial journey beginning in 2007 when he purchased Plantation Shutters, a then R3 million business, for one Rand, Duk today owns a group of companies with turnover approaching R200 million, with only organic growth and debt based financing along the way.



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