Business

This 24-year-old opened a steel company during the hard lockdown – it’s now valued at R7.5 million

Business Insider SA
Steelkor Steel and Pipe and Jeandre van Derhan (Supplied)
Steelkor Steel and Pipe and Jeandre van Derhan (Supplied)
  • Jeandre van Derhan is the 24-year-old founder of Steelkor Steel and Pipe, a steel and pipe provider now valued at R7.5 million.
  • The entrepreneur launched the company in 2020 during the hard lockdown when a lot of steel companies closed down.
  • Having started the business with R820, Van Derhan's first order was worth R80,000 and he made a turnover of R920,000 within the first five months of launching.
  • Van Derhan had no formal training in the industry and credits a lot of his business knowledge to Donald Trump.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za. 

Jeandre van Derhan is a 24-year-old CEO and founder of Steelkor Steel and Pipe, a steel and pipe provider that launched during the hard lockdown and made almost its first million in just the first five months.  

After completing high school, Van Derhan pursued a career in aviation but later abandoned that dream after realising that he was more interested in becoming a businessman as opposed to "sitting in a cockpit the whole day," he said.

With no formal education in the steel industry, the young entrepreneur relied on knowledge he had gained from various jobs that he took on after dropping plans to get his pilot licence. He ended up opening his very own successful business.

"Right after school I started working for a steel engineering company. I was appointed to buy steel for the company. That's where I got most of my knowledge," he said.

After working there for about two years, Van Derhan went on to work as a salesperson at another steel company where he gained knowledge on where to buy almost anything needed in the steel industry, both locally and internationally.

Steelkor Steel and Pipe (Supplied)
Steelkor Steel and Pipe (Supplied)

The young entrepreneur had no idea that that knowledge would work to his advantage when the Covid-19 pandemic affected parts of the steel industry.

"At that time, steel was very scarce because Mittal [ArceloMittal SA] are the country's biggest steel producer. While they were closed for three months, there was a big scarcity of steel.

"I knew where to buy the product where the public didn't know. I started the company based on that and then I started selling steel," Van Derhan told Business Insider.

When he started the business, the entrepreneur had R820 in his bank account, which he used to register his business and he remembers that "that was the last money I had in my account," he said.

Steelkor Steel and Pipe stock (Supplied)
Steelkor Steel and Pipe stock (Supplied)
Steelkor Steel and Pipe (Supplied)
Steelkor Steel and Pipe (Supplied)

"What motivated me to register my company was that, while all the other steel companies were closed, I had a client that needed steel urgently because they manufacture for BMW, Ford, and Toyota.

"I knew I couldn't help anyone without the stock. That motivated me to open my own company and sell to my clients through my own business," said Van Derhan.  

And just like that, the businessman, who was 22 at the time, had his first client who made it possible for Steelkor Steel and Pipe to generate R80,000.

"My first order was R80,000. Within three months, I'd grown into monthly turn over of between R300,000 and R500,000," he said.

According to Van Derhan, in the first financial year, he made an annual turnover of about R920,000 in just the first five months, and has more than doubled the amount between then and February this year.

His company is now valued at R7.5 million, according to Van Derhan, and employs five people. He is in the process of building another 600 square metre store where he is looking to employ 10 more people.  

New Steelkor store (Supplied)
New Steelkor store (Supplied)

Although the 24-year-old had no formal training, he told Business Insider that he owes a lot of his expertise to the advice of a lot of people, one of them being Donald Trump and his book Think Big and Kick Ass: In Business and in Life.

"Since I started my business, I have completely looked up to Donlad Trump. His momentum in business is just… him and Elon Musk.

"I've read a book by Donald Trump and that book has been guiding me, from chapter to chapter, on what to do, how to expand my knowledge in life and in my business, and whatever I read in that book, I applied in my business, and it just works," said Van Derhan.  

Van Derhan advises anyone looking to open their own business to go in with a vast amount of knowledge and do what they're good at.

"Start something that you are good at and build yourself up, that will help you make yourself better," he said.

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