Josephine Tshaboeng, a one-time domestic worker, has been transformed into a first-time entrepreneur with the help of innovative social enterprise TUHF. Fifty-one-year-old Tshaboeng’s journey began over 10 years ago and culminated in May 2010, when she received a prestigious Halala Joburg Award from the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA).
Tshaboeng moved to Joburg from Lichtenburg in 1985. It was 15 years later that Tshaboeng, a single mother of four, gave up her domestic worker job after a wage dispute and took to the streets in search of a new job.
While waiting for her bus home one day, a chance encounter with an elderly African-American woman changed her life. The woman put her in touch with the Suid-Afrikaanse Vroue Federasie. Three months later, Tshaboeng found herself in front of a building on Sarasota Avenue in Berea. Harmony Hof was an old-age home that had been standing empty for a number of years.
She ended up managing Harmony Hof for the Vroue Federasie for five years, and did it so successfully that the organisation offered to sell her the building in 2005 for a mere R450 000.
After being unable to find a bank to fund her, she remembered a business card from an agent for TUHF, a finance company aimed at providing short and long-term loans to people looking to purchase property or to improve residential rental buildings in South African inner cities.
The organisation focuses on promoting urban regeneration and black economic empowerment, through loans ranging from R50 000 to R30-million.
With the help of TUHF, Tshaboeng became the owner of Harmony Hof. But her troubles were far from over. The area started going into a decline, her building was hijacked and the tenants stopped paying rent.
Success doesn’t come straight to you
Conditions worsened and it became much more dangerous for people to venture into the area and with eviction order after eviction order being squashed, Tshaboeng’s financial status became dire. “Success doesn’t come straight to you,” she says.
But she could not let go of the building, because she loved it. “You know, I really fell in love with this place. It was part of me,” she says.
Once more, she approached TUHF, this time to help with the removal of the illegal tenants and the refurbishment of the entire building. TUHF approved a loan of R1 million. Much of the money was spent on security and court cases, but in June 2009 refurbishment finally began.
Tshaboeng currently houses 128 female students in Harmony Galz, the new name for the building – called “galz” because it only offers accommodation to female tenants.
Harmony Galz offers accommodation in triple, double and single quarters with full ablution facilities on each floor, as well as a communal kitchen and laundry facilities and a special “chill” area.
There is ample parking space and Tshaboeng is planning to create a grassed area in front of the building for outdoor leisure.
According to George Chauke, a portfolio manager at TUHF, here is a fairy tale for sure. “She’s cooking. We think she is ready for her next project.”