Brainwave Primary Cooperative is a Standerton-based entity that provides mechanical and auto-electrical maintenance services to mines in the Mpumalanga province. Having completed the Seriti Enterprise and Supplier Development (ESD) Programme in 2021, the company is now better positioned to deliver on a large, multi-year contract.
Brainwave Primary Cooperative was established in 2018 and has seven founding members and 35 employees. The entity was formed as a result of lobbying by a business forum of community members who sought development opportunities at Seriti Coal’s truck depot at its New Denmark colliery, around 30km outside Standerton, in Mpumalanga. The cooperative was established when Seriti Coal afforded the group the opportunity to perform vehicle maintenance and repairs for the New Denmark coalmine’s fleet of light delivery vehicles and to supply automotive spares. Brainwave has facilities at New Denmark where it carries out repair and maintenance work on site, as well as a workshop in Standerton where bigger repair work is undertaken. The founding members decided to structure Brainwave as a cooperative to drive meaningful socio-economic development within their community by uplifting people through employment and skills development. The entity aims to raise enough capital to focus on other related business areas, including transportation and logistics services, to positively contribute towards the country’s economy.
Since inception, Brainwave Primary Cooperative has identified challenges and shortcomings in its ability to fulfil the terms of the multi-year Seriti Coal maintenance and repair contract. The contract exposed the cooperative to unprecedented growth opportunities, which would help fulfil its vision of bringing about socio-economic development by creating jobs and other economic opportunities for local community members. At the same time, the Seriti Coal contract also brought about the potential to place Brainwave on a solid financial footing, positioning it for future growth. However, the entity felt that it was thrown in the deep end as its members lacked business experience and Brainwave did not have the resources or capacity to successfully deliver on the contract. The young community members who founded Brainwave did not have entrepreneurial skills and also struggled to manage the group’s finances. In addition, the entity lacked the requisite skills and knowledge to market itself effectively, and therefore likely to struggle to secure future work, beyond the Seriti Coal contract. The entity realised that it would need help and appropriate guidance in order to not only fulfil its current contract, but to sustain its grow and diversify its client base.
In 2020, Brainwave applied and was selected to join the Seriti ESD Programme, which was designed to identify Micro, Small and Medium, Enterprises (MSMEs) in the specified local communities in which Seriti Coal operates. Seriti Coal contracted Zevoli Growth Partners to develop and implement the ESD programme on its behalf, in line with Seriti’s commitment to support local MSMEs in acquiring essential business skills needed to expand their operating capacity. A recruitment and awareness campaign attracted more than 500 MSME applications. The ESD programme, a capacity and capability building and mentorship initiative, ran between February and July 2021. The structured mentorship and training programme is aimed at helping MSMEs improve their operational efficiency, expand market share, grow strategically and align to a level of sustainability.
Brainwave identified the Seriti ESD Programme as the ideal platform for it to gain the necessary knowledge, skills and guidance to position itself as an effective business and position it for future growth. Melusi Shongwe, founding member of Brainwave Primary Cooperative, represented the entity at the Seriti ESD Programme. Brainwave’s participation in the programme highlighted several areas that needed attention, particularly the entity’s inadequate management of finances, lack of project management abilities, and marketing knowledge. The cooperative received training and guidance through the monthly mentorship and coaching, business growth learning programming and digital marketing modules that formed part of the ESD programme. Several tools and resources were deployed for Brainwave, including a financial management system that could track its finances, and create quotes, invoices and payslips at the touch of a button. It also received a project management tool to manage its time, teams and projects in a systematic way. Lastly, the ESD programme included the creation of a corporate identity, including logo and website design, and social media training to bulk up the entity’s marketing skills.
Since completing the course, Brainwave gained critical knowledge that allowed it to recognise the importance of establishing a professional working environment that is conducive, drafting policies, drawing up budgets and instilling safe and professional work practices. The cooperative is currently renovating their infrastructure and positioning itself for sustainable growth. In addition, the entity now understands the importance of, and engages in, networking and forming relationships. The cooperative’s revenue grew by 25% and its staff compliment by 24% over the ESD programme period. The financial and project management tools that were implemented at Brainwave have allowed the entity to work more efficiently and effectively, and it is currently considering increasing its scope of work at New Denmark. As a result, it is looking at hiring more people.