Pretoria - Against all odds Eric Tau has started a thriving project that has seen him make life easier for himself.
The 38-year-old, who grew up in a village called Klipheuwel in Limpopo moved, with his parents, to an informal settlement in Irene, Tshwane, in 1997.
He is now the founder and CEO of Moremi Kitchens, a black-owned home renovation business that builds and fits kitchens cabinets, bedroom cupboards and bathroom vanities to TV wall units across the country.
Tau’s father worked as a gardener while his mom tried to make ends meet as a house keeper in Pretoria.
His mother occupied a backroom in the suburbs where she worked and a room was turned into a house with his family living in Olievenhoutbosch.
Following his matriculation, Eric got into a bridging programme with the University of Pretoria, aged 17. Knowing where he came from, he says he embraced the opportunity with both hands.
Eric moved from providing IT Consultancy services to owning a truck, to having a small operation selling cellphone contracts. He accidentally landed in the kitchen and home renovation space when he reworked his parents’ kitchen and in typical Eric-style, he went all in.
Seven years later, they have renovated more than 500 homes and have done over 300 kitchens with a high number of happy clients through his company Moremi Kitchens.
His company has branches in Sandton, Rustenburg, and Polokwane and he still runs the IT Consultancy specialising in software development.
His time is split between IT and Moremi Kitchens.
“It was my only opportunity to re-write my story. I finished the bridging programme and enrolled to study medicine at the University of Pretoria.
“I actually studied medicine for six months but I quit. I had no bursary or money to buy books.
“I had to find a study programme that didn’t need too many textbooks. I switched to Computer Science. I was looking at three to four years maximum before I could earn a decent salary so I made sure not to let the opportunity slip,” he said.
“I grew up like most black South African children, in a family that barely made ends meet. Mom was a domestic help and dad was a highly skilled gardener who helped the family.
“Upon completing my matric, I had nowhere to go. I was turned down at a few jobs because I was supposedly too young,” Tau said.
He said based on his background he had to take care of everyone in his family.
“I had to make sure my family had a decent house to live in and I had to take care of my own needs so that meant I had to work twice as hard.
“Also, I developed very high expectations of myself and I realised I was capabable of achieving anything I set my mind to.
“So I was never satisfied with any amount that I earned as a salary so from 2010, about four years after I started working, I started exploring business opportunities.
“I bought into a mini franchise selling cellphone contracts, I bought a truck to explore the trucking business, I started a web development and corporate branding company.
“There were failures and successes. I would quit my job to focus on business, things would go south and I would go back to work. It was a repetitive cycle until 2017.
Around 2017, after a long discussion with a late friend of his, Tau decided to go on growing an IT business while at the same time starting Moremi Kitchens.
“I believe I have what it takes to be successful in business. It’s not an easy journey and it requires hard work, dedication and the right support structures. I have all of that.
“I have built a network of people around me who are willing to help and I put in the hours.
“My business was started in 2017. It’s a home renovations business specialising in building new kitchens and anything carpentry-related from TV wall units to bedroom cabinets to home bars.
“The idea came about when I was renovating my parents’ kitchen. I could not afford the services of the more established companies and I did not particularly enjoy the experience I got from the independent contractor I got to help me with the project.
Although he got the work done, he was unreliable.
His quotation didn’t make sense and there were plenty of changes. He couldn’t give me proper designs so I had no idea what I was going to get until the kitchen was completed.”
Tau said this was the reason he started a company to close the gap because he felt to he had to serve the neglected market segment.
“People in the townships who couldn’t afford the more established companies still wanted to deal with a reputable and reliable company. We have since expanded our offering to serve the higher end of the market. Because well, if we know how to get the work done, there is not reason we should limit ourselves.”
Tau who employs more than 50 people, has reservations about starting a business in the country.
“Our labour and business administrative laws make it very difficult to run a growing company in South Africa.
“The administrative burdens placed on business owners is onerous. You have the inefficient Department of Labour whose systems don’t work quite as well, there’s bargaining councils, SARS and and a whole host of compliance matters.
“The eletricity situation isn’t making things easy either. I've had a period when employees would stand idle for half the day because of the electricity situation and they still have to be paid,” he said.
“I put my all into work, I bought a car, I built my parents’ home, I assisted my siblings wherever I could, but as you can imagine, I had too many responsibilities and always had to work harder and harder to cover my ever-increasing commitments.
“Between 2015 and 2017, I reached a crossroads.It was during this time that I decided to go the entrepreneurial route. I started an IT Consulting company but business was really tough. Therefore, it was a back-and-forth. For six months I’d be employed, for another six months I’d be on the hunt.”