For most entrepreneurs, the journey of entrepreneurship starts at the very bottom of the proverbial ladder. Yet, a keen eye for gaps in the market, coupled with willingness to learn and master every skill, climbing the ladder one step at a time comes naturally and with ease. This most certainly rang true for Christopher Kapanga, owner of Randburg based We Clean It All and a 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition entrant, who embarked on his entrepreneurial journey at the tender age of 26.
Like many entrepreneurs, Kapanga grew tired of working for someone else’s vision. As he grew up with an entrepreneurial family, Kapanga always had a desire to become known for doing something great.
He describes himself as ‘street smart’ rather than ‘book smart’. “I was never a great student and found university difficult. I felt like a failure for not completing my studies, until one day I realised that life is what you make of it. Through my work experience I discovered that there was more I could offer once I understood what I excelled at, and I soon discovered that it was delivering on excellent customer service,” says Kapanga.
Having started his working career as a floor sales assistant at a large clothing retailer, Kapanga quickly learnt the importance of excellent customer service, and was swiftly promoted to supervisor. Soon after he was head hunted by Builders Warehouse, and in his position as a junior manager, he soon learnt that customer service was non-negotiable. In this role, he also enhanced his communication skills through his liaisons with suppliers, and realised he could in fact run his own business.
With the seed planted, Kapanga opted to enter the service industry and joined a carpet cleaning company as an area manager. It was during his five years with the company that his inspiration for growing a business increased, and which ultimately sparked his entrepreneurial journey.
“My then manager was very strict and had an eye on everything. He always knew who worked hard, who slacked, how much stock was on hand, how much petrol was in each van for example. His drive and determination to make his business succeed was what I admired most about him, and so I aimed to be just like him one day,” says Kapanga.
After starting to clean carpets over the weekends for extra money, Kapanga identified a gap in the market for high quality and reliable carpet cleaning services in households and with homeowners who continued to ask for additional cleaning services. He subsequently started his own carpet cleaning company, We Clean It All.
Kapanga says that he knew that delivering unrivalled customer service would set his business apart from competitors. “We don’t only provide a cleaning service to our clients, but also create a beneficial relationship by providing clients with long term advice and solutions for maintenance of their material goods.”
He pegs the first few months of 2008 (after launching his business) as the most challenging – struggling to attract and retain even two clients during the winter months, and having their pricing structure dictated to them by their biggest source of clients – the real estate agencies, many of whom took advantage of his business’ youth in the market.
Today, Kapanga can look back and smile at the growth his business has achieved over the past eight years. His services have broadened to include window cleaning, floor cleaning, post renovation cleaning and flood damage among other services. His staff complement has also increased significantly, with additional office and operational staff members. There are also new exciting projects on the cards which Kapanga hopes will bring the business to the forefront of delivering on-the-go services that will be easily accessible to future customers.
When asked what advice he would give budding entrepreneurs, Kapanga provides three top tips:
- Write all your business ideas down;
- Do it now: Don’t wait for the perfect time as it will never come. The know how to run the business only starts when you are in it;
- Hard work will make your business a success.
He also stresses that education is important. “While I may have struggled with formal education, I make sure to constantly surround myself with business-minded individuals by attending workshops, online education courses, networking events and business management seminars.
“I firmly believe that lessons are not only learned in the classroom. To succeed, you need to always be in the know, and this is why I strive to read as many books on entrepreneurial subjects and stay in touch with business owners and motivational speakers,” Kapanga concludes.