Abenzi Woodhouse Section 21 Company (NPO)
Aspire, together with its development partners, assisted with the establishment of the Abenzi Woodhouse Section 21 Company. This company was founded in 2010 to specifically tap into economic opportunities in the downstream sector of the local timber industry around Stutterheim.
The main objectives of the Abenzi Woodhouse company are to capacitate local youth, women and the disabled to take business opportunities in the timber sector and improve their employability in the sector. Abenzi Woodhouse aims to tap into economic opportunities in the down-stream sector of the local timber industry around Stutterheim. The Woodhouse is considered to be an opportunity to create a training facility that provides skills to the local communities, both technically (cabinet making) and entrepreneurially alongside the timber down-streaming value chain (furniture production, upholstery, etc.)
The Woodhouse is composed of 3 components, namely the training centre, mini factory and incubation centre, phased over 3 years as follows:
- Phase 1: Training Centre providing non accredited NQF Level 1 training as per Department of Labour Standards. This training duration is 8 months. Thereafter trainees qualify for NQF level 2 accredited learnership training based on practical and theory training assessment. The training is provided by FIETA accredited training institute, Industries Education and Training Institute (IETI) who are Abenzi Woodhouse partners
- Phase 2: Mini factory for providing trainees with on the job training as a requirement for NQF Level 2 Learnership training, to meet the accreditation standards of FIETA. This phase runs for duration of 15 weeks theory training and a year of practical training. Trainees undertake two external examinations or assessments by a FIETA accredited assessor to check their practical experience before they can become qualified cabinet makers. The mini factory produces school, office and household furniture in order to improve the skills of the trainees.
- Phase 3: Incubation and business cluster phase is subject to NQF level 2 qualification as accredited cabinet maker, thereafter a subsidiary company will be formed by the Woodhouse incubates to operate as commercial business owned by the trainees. A concept document and business plan for the incubation phase is presently being finalized.
Ownership and management
The Woodhouse is a registered Section 21 Company with a formal appointed board of directors. A project steering committee (PSC) consisting of Aspire, Amahlathi Local Municipality, ECDC, DEDEAT and Department of Labour has been formed. The functions and powers of the Woodhouse are vested in the Board of Directors appointed by and answerable to the members of the company. The Board is responsible for the leadership and strategic implementation of the Woodhouse concept which is implemented and managed by a formally appointed General Manager.
Currently the Woodhouse has 33 trainees, of which 17 trainees are undertaking NQF level 1 and 16 trainees are undertaking NQF Level 2 (wood furniture manufacturing learnership) from the small towns of Amahlathi namely Cathcart, Stutterheim, Keiskammahoek and King Kei areas. There is a management team, including a centre and production manager and staff.
Marketing and promotional plan
The Woodhouse signed an off-take agreement with Trendy office warehouse which is a furniture retail and subsidiary company of Babana Technologies who is one of Woodhouse’s members. The Woodhouse supplies office and school furniture to Trendy Warehouse and use their showroom to showcase and market the Woodhouse products. Individual customers are also serviced directly by the Woodhouse, based on customer specifications. Currently the Woodhouse has secured the following orders:
- 48 refurbished school desks for a Mdantsane School
- 30 school desks for refurbishment for Trendy Warehouse
- 48 chairs and 12 tables for Daliwe School in Cathcart as well as individual customized products.
On the 23 June 2012 the Woodhouse delivered 70 new church pews to the Lovedale Presbytearian Church in Alice. The 70 new six-seater benches worth R120 000 were a personal donation by the former Aspire CEO Ms P. Xuza who comes from Alice.
The mini factory has all the required machinery and is in the process of building a formal spraying booth, as per Department of Labour Standards for compliance purposes. The Woodhouse trainees are registered with Department of Labour for compensation funds. A formal project launch and business production launch was held on 1 December 2011 to market the products.