'When you get funding, invest in that generator' – small businesses on surviving power cuts

Business Insider SA
(Photo by Eric Lafforgue/Art in All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images)
(Photo by Eric Lafforgue/Art in All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images)
  • Small businesses have been among the hardest hit by load shedding.
  • Some business owners shared tips on how they survive when left with no electricity. 
  • They include investing in alternative power sources such as inverters, generators, switching to chargeable equipment, or even setting up a fire to cook on.
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Recent drastic Eskom power cuts have left small business owners frustrated as power outages make it increasingly difficult for them to operate profitably.

This has left them with no choice but to resort to alternative means such as using inverters, generators, chargeable equipment, cooking on a fire, or simply aligning their operating hours with the load shedding schedule.

Invest in alternative sources of power

Keketso Mokgothu, owner of Mtswako, a company that manufactures immune boosters in Odendaalsrus in the Free State, urged business owners to seriously consider investing in an alternative power source such as an inverter or generator.

"When you apply for that funding and get approved, never ever forget to get a generator or invest in one," Mokgothu told Business Insider South Africa.

black business woman behind a stall with her produ
Owner of Mtswako Keketso Mokgothu (Facebook)

"I have an inverter, a generator, and a fridge I can use when there's no power and these help keep my stock fresh at all times.”

Mokgothu's inverter (Supplied)
Mokgothu's inverter (Supplied)

Use chargeable tools

Nokuthula Mabena, founder of Glamour Bar, a nail salon in Silverton, said she has included in her inventory chargeable equipment which keeps her business operational even during blackouts.

"I have invested in equipment that I charge and when there's load shedding, I have a solid two hours of power still left to operate," she said.

This equipment includes a chargeable electric E-filer, UV/LED light to cure nails and a desk clamp ring light – all of which can be charged using a USB cable.

Nail artist with her client
Left: Nokuthula Mabena with her client: Right_ Mabena's chargeable equipment (Supplied)

Owner of Nubian Native, Nomfundo Nhleko, a nail salon that operates in Braamfontein and Roodepoort, echoed that sentiment, emphasising that working around the load shedding schedule saves a lot of trouble.

"Know your schedule in advance and communicate it to clients and don't take bookings if your work needs electricity and you don't have an alternative power source.

"Invest in a portable battery that can power up the tools that absolutely need electricity that will enable you to keep working," she said.

Nail artist holding her tools
Nomfundo Nhleko and her chargeable tools (Supplied)
Nhleki's alternative power source (Supplied)

Do what can be done without electricity

In addition to investing in a generator, Thado Makhubu, owner of ice cream shop Soweto Creamery, advised other business owners to identify tasks that can be done without electricity to perform them.

Thando Makhubu (Supplied)
Thando Makhubu (Supplied)

He also advised that owners carry stock only based on their projected sales if you're working with perishables.

Additionally, "SMEs can come together and invest in one generator which they can use together if working in the same complex," Mkhubu added.

Where there's fire, there's business – but even that doesn't work anymore

Fast food businesses in the township are among the hardest hit by load shedding.

One owner, Violet Seabi, who operates in Rabie Ridge, near Tembisa, told Business Insider SA that setting up a fire worked for her. But she is losing a lot of customers now that the fire is affecting her health.  

"Schools are closed right now and normally I'd have customers coming for chips in the morning and a lot more wanting chips and kotas during peak hours after work," said Seabi.

To save her business, Seabi, who simply cannot afford a generator, sets up a fire so she can continue frying chips to sell to customers. This takes more time than using a fryer but at least it gets the job done.

"But it's difficult for me to do that now because I have wounds on my legs that simply cannot tolerate the fire anymore," she said.

"I can't afford a generator so all I can do is just close down and watch my business lose customers and money."

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