UKZN PhD student opens detergents and cosmetics plant

By Karen Singh Time of article published Apr 18, 2021

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A TWENTY-eight-year-old University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) PhD student opened a detergents and cosmetics manufacturing plant in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday.

Nomandla Ngcoya, who is the chief executive and owner of D Chem group, said she started the business in 2016 with just R1 200.

“I started making dishwashing liquid and all I could manufacture was 25 litres of it,” she said.

Ngcoya said she got the packaging and enlisted the services of a graphic designer to make stickers.

“It took me eight months to sell those 25 litres. That was very discouraging for me but one thing I love about myself is that I don’t give up easily,” she said.

She said she suffered with depression at times while other challenges she experienced included people asking for samples while some asked to purchase the product on credit to try it out.

“In 2017 I lost R13 000 because of credit. My business was not functional for three months because I was trying to get funding.

Ngcoya thanked the Durban chemical cluster who assisted her with R6 000, as part of a programme to help small businesses, which allowed her to get back on her feet again among others.

She also thanked her supervisor, who has encouraged her to complete her PhD, which was delayed due to Covid-19.

“She has been very patient with me and part of it is because, as an entrepreneur, I suffer from depression. So she takes extra care of me,” said Ngcoya.

Ngcoya also thanked her mother and grandmother for their support.

“My mother has not been a demanding person. She has allowed me to follow my dreams.

“I have never worked for anybody before. I have been in varsity for 11 years straight ... but she doesn't tell me to go and work, so I can make her happy,” she said.

MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Ravi Pillay, who delivered the keynote address at the launch event, said the launch of the plant was the start of a very bright future.

“Nomandla, it is extremely inspiring and we are very proud to have young people like you in out society,” he said.

Pillay said she had taken her knowledge from her studies and applied it to her business.

He encouraged Ngcoya to complete her Phd.

The MEC said the launch of Ngcoya’s plant in 2021 was fitting as it this year was dedicated to celebrating Charlotte Maxeke, the first black South African woman to graduate with a university degree in 1903 in the US.

He said Maxeke dedicated her time, upon her return to SA, to activities that contributed to fighting injustice and uplifting black women.

“We celebrate her in the hope that her life will inspire many more young people especially young women and we want the country to produce many more Charlotte Maxeke’s.”

Pillay said more young women needed to be educated and lead the charge in confronting the challenges they are confronted with.

“I believe that if she were still alive today Nomandla, Maxeke would be proud of you and others like you,” he said.

Ngcoya added that she was passionate about creating employment opportunities in the vast field of chemical manufacturing.

The D Chem Group already employs six people and is expected to employ four more with the opening of the new plant.

The plant has the capacity to produce 10 000 litres of products a day.

Pillay said government was strengthening its support for SMMEs.

“As part of this support, we will soon be opening the KwaMashu shared production facility for chemicals and detergents. The facility has been developed to support small enterprises involved in the manufacturing of detergents and cosmetics,” he said.


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