Tumi Mphahlele

Amperion Energy

What does your company do?

Tumi founded Matajiri Energy in 2012 as a renewable energy project developer, initially participating in Round 2 of government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer (REIPP) and developing to the end of pre-feasibility a small generator of under 5MW. Due to a number of challenges at the time, the company suspended operations in 2014. In 2018 she resumed activities, changed the name of the company to Amperion Energy and within the first three years achieved the following: • Co-founded in December 2018 a company called IG3N, a local Lithium Battery Assembly facility in Johannesburg that produces batteries that are used as energy storage mostly in renewable energy installations and in power backup applications. The company reached post-revenue in 2019 and in 2020, was awarded Runner-Up in the Game Changer Category at the Nedbank Small Business Excellence Awards held at the Riversands Incubation Hub where IG3N was operating at the time. • Started a new Residential and Light Commercial Division of Amperion Energy under the brand www.sunstore.co.za and within its first of operation, achieved more than 900% year-on-year revenue growth from 2019/20 to 2020/21. • Amperion Energy is completing the feasibility stage of a wholly owned 18MW large-scale solar PV plant in the Platinum Belt. The total impact on direct jobs created across the companies is about 40 people, majority are young people under 30.

What is your biggest success?

My biggest success is leading IG3N through through 4 successful funding rounds – Standard Bank Enterprise Supplier Development funding and private equity transactions with Secha Capital, Edgegrowth Ventures and Sanlam Ventures. IG3N is a light manufacturing business and is fairly capital intensive. The activities that prepare a business for funding are onerous on their own – and in many instances when this work continues, the business on the other hand does not stop running. The next step of finding the right investors for the business can be challenging. The process is long and sometimes disheartening especially if knocking on the doors that are not aligned to the funding requirements of the business. It takes a lot of hard work to conclude a transaction; and to have concluded successive rounds is my biggest achievement. This achievement is one of the reasons why we are still in business today.

What has been your biggest hurdle?

My biggest hurdle is having limited access to the right level of skill to help drive the businesses. Without the skills, entrepreneurs get overworked and eventually burn-out. Many small business have few options and in a difficult economy, non-financial incentives can only work up to a certain point. Small businesses need these skills probably more than large businesses do, but have less capacity to retain them. Larger businesses can afford to employ multiple skills in parallel from a succession point of view – whereas small business suffer the most when trained employees move on to other opportunities. The biggest hurdle is simply attracting and retaining the right skills to drive growth for the businesses.