494 27/06/2012 Marcia Mofokeng works on fabricating aluminium door and window frames in her garage at her home in Katlehong which serves as a make shift workshop. Here she uses her measuring tape to size up a window frame. Picture: Ihsaan Haffejee

Johannesburg - When one thinks of metal, and welding, the picture that comes to mind is that of a man in overalls ... but Marcia Mofokeng is challenging that stereotype.

“Do you know what you are doing? Are you sure you are the right person for the job?”

These are just some of the questions Marcia is asked by clients at her workshop in the garage of her home in Phake Section, Katlehong, Ekurhuleni.

When she started her business, her first order was two sliding doors. The total value of that order was R15 000, and that included production and installation.

“When the guy saw me coming to do measurements he was shocked – and he could not hide it. He thought I was a secretary or a sales rep. He kept asking me if I knew what I was doing and if someone was coming to do the real work.”

When her customer finally relented, Mofokeng decided to throw a spanner in the works. She called an all-girl group to help her install the doors. “The client saw the girls and decided he couldn’t watch. He went to Maponya Mall and when he returned we were finished,” said Mofokeng.

Busting the stereotype is just one of the many challenges she faces. The construction business has high costs and often customers want to cut costs by buying cheap material, which costs them more in the long run.

“I have a competitor just over the road and we are always at some kind of price war.”

She explains that a good-quality sliding door can cost roughly R2 400, but if one uses cheap materials it costs R1 800.

“I decided to beat lower prices by including maintenance, repair and after-sales service in my price,” Mofokeng said.

Metal work was not her career choice, but when she heard that Merseta and Wispeco , the largest aluminium products producers in South Africa, were running a training course called New Venture Creation, she signed up for it.

“I was unemployed and I didn’t know what else to do. I took a chance,” she says.

One of the course outcomes was to enable students to open a workshop in the township.

“I not only found something to do, but something to be passionate about,” she says with a smile.

Last year her mother passed away, leaving her to take care of her two younger siblings and her own son. “There are times when I can go on without generating any income, but good things come to those who work and wait,” she says

She is currently part of the Branson Centre in Braamfontein.

The centre offers mentorship, support with registration, and compliance and business management courses.

“The great thing is that you get to make presentations to potential investors who come to the centre looking to give funding to entrepreneurs.”

Mofokeng said her confidence has grown over the past two years. “I have learnt that there are opportunities out there. All you must do is find the one that works best for you.”

Asked what advice she has for aspiring entrepreneurs, she said: “Believe in what you do and know your product.” - The Star