Johannesburg- Lathi Tha’ Eyecare Group CEO, Sibusiso Thabede was last week awarded the TOP BLACK MALE ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR in the Metropolitan Oliver Empowerment Awards.
The award ceremony was held on Thursday, 25 March 2010 in Sandton. The purpose of the awards is to acknowledge, congratulate and celebrate the efforts made by companies across the board towards the development and promotion of employment equity and their drive for B-BBEE in every sphere of South African life.
Thabede was chosen against five other serious contenders for his stewardship and contribution in building the Lathi Tha Eyecare Group that operates a chain of optical stores.
Speaking after the honour, Thabede said, “We are very excited with the award as it recognises our brand and the hard work that we have put and continue to put in building the company”.
“This recognition gives us an opportunity to expand horizontally and vertically, allowing us to drive our costs and prices down, and open stores in all the provinces”, added Thabede.
Founded in 2004, the group currently owns a chain of ten stores located in four provinces- Kwazulu Natal (Durban), Eastern Cape (Mthatha, PE & East London), Western Cape (Cape Town) and Limpopo (Polokwane and Thohoyandou).
Hundred percent black-owned, controlled and managed, the group has an uncommon model of empowerment through which optometrists are encouraged to open and fully or part-own their practice while they continue to be part of the group.
He said they are in the process of making this concept a franchised business where first preference will be given to PDIs to be franchisees. The current stores that are in operation will be offered to current operators to buy, even if it is a part of the store if they feel they are not in a position to buy the whole business. Franchisees will be encouraged to buy shares in the holding company so that they become part of the franchisor. To ensure that this happens without incurring major costs, Lathi Tha Eyecare plans to import equipment directly so as bring down setup costs, making it affordable for optometrists to open their practices.
With the increase in the number of operative stores, the company intends to establish its own lens manufacturing laboratory, which will give it an advantage in price and in bringing costs down. This will additionally offer more job opportunities in areas where the company operates. The group currently employs 48 people, 100% previously disadvantaged individuals, 83% of whom are female.
Another initiative in the pipeline is the launch of a mobile clinic to be able to provide first- world eye care to even the most rural part of South Africa.
Thabede said that the award was not just for him, but the group as a whole as the company has achieved all it has due to the hard work by everyone employed in the group.
“Currently, eye care is not accessible to all in South Africa and we plan to change this and make it affordable and thus accessible to all”, added Thabede.