Welding his way into customers’ hearts

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Welder and artisan Thabo Jacob . Photo: Lucas Ledwaba
Welder and artisan Thabo Jacob . Photo: Lucas Ledwaba

A man walks into the home of Thabo Jacob Mahlase in Munsieville to get a quote to repair his broken gate. The man leaves after Mahlase promises to send him a written quote that very day.

His unassuming home in Jabulani street in the Mogale City township is a popular stopover for clients seeking his welding and general artisan skills. Mahlase ventured into the world of welding in 1985 after completing matric.

“My father was against me venturing into welding saying it will leave me blind. But here I am today still doing it,” he says. On completion of his studies in 1990 Mahlase held down several jobs including in big construction projects.

But in 2003 he decided to establish his own workshop and hasn’t looked back.

He fashions out wine racks, door handles, palisades, beds, gates, burglar bars, tables for mobile bars, carports and fireplaces among other items.

Mahlase even manufactures staircase railings and  currently working on a big order to manufacture mobile bar tables for uLanga Bar, a company specialising in outdoor events.

Mahlase also provides other services including tiling, plumbing and roofing.

Mahlase is always on the lookout for young unemployed youth to train and mentor. So far, he has trained four youths who have gone on to start their own businesses.

Letlhogonolo Muse was feeling hopeless and lost after being forced to drop out of school at the age of 17.

He approached Mahlase for a job. The artisan took him in and slowly taught him the finer points of welding and other disciplines. He worked with him for six years until he felt ready to go out on his own. He is now running his own business in Tshwane.

Mahlase who started his business with his own savings managed to save up enough to invest over R60 000 in specialised welding equipment. 

“Save money and use it wisely and invest in equipment. Tools get broken while you are working on a big order. A client doesn’t want to hear stories they want their order ready.

So, you need to always have back up so that you don’t disappoint clients,” says Mahlase.

He still hopes to grow his business and is hoping government can assist township industrialists like him by providing proper premises so they can grow and create more jobs, especially for the youth.

While many businesses failed to survive the hard lockdown Mahlase experienced a boom when a fireplace he had made for his mother became the talk of the town, leading to a stream of orders. 

“I do everything with my heart and soul and I respect my customers. After doing work for customers, I take the time to follow up with them and find out if they are happy with the service. That helps to build a strong bond and trust with customers,” he advices.

He still uses the old tried and tested methods of marketing his business. He keeps a photo album of his designs and hires a youth who does door-to-door, word-of-mouth marketing using the album.

He is now planning to spread his wings through social media and digital marketing. MTN Made For Skhokho flexible packages will be of great value to Mahlase since he is moving into a digital and social media space with an intention to expand and grow his client base.

The Made For Skhokho packages will allow Mahlase to reach customer far and wide and expose his great work to the world.

To register for MTN Skokoho click here

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Welder Thabo Jacob Mahlase displays a chandelier he made in his backyard workshop. Photo: Lucas Ledwaba.

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