When Quinton Uren was still a kid trying to save up money to study, he took on a job collecting sewerage samples. Today, he owns and leads one of the largest exporting companies in the country and as a testament to his hard work, it was announced that he is a 2018 finalist in the prestigious All Africa Business Leaders Awards.
The Port Elizabeth born Quinton was nominated in the category of Industrialist of the Year. This nomination was recognition for having taken his company, Jendamark, from a small automotive engineering firm to a global automation technology leader. However, it was not an easy task getting his company to reach these heights.
Growing up in Springdale, Quinton’s love of mechanics and machinery started while watching his auto mechanic father fix cars. After matriculating from Springdale High, he applied for a bursary but faced his first major hurdle when his application was rejected. He had no intention of giving up, so in order to save up money to study, he literally went to work in a sewer.
Quinton spent the next 6 months collecting sewerage samples for the municipality and when he saved up enough money, he registered at Port Elizabeth Technikon.
After obtaining a diploma in mechanical automotive engineering, Quinton started working for General Motors in the training programme. Four years later, he left and started working as a design engineer at SKF Bearings. It was here that he began to develop his idea for a business and where he met his future business partner. It was also here that he faced his next major hurdle: retrenchment.
While working at SKF, he purchased his own computer-aided design machinery and started his first company, Nasquin Designs. At the time, as a married father to a small child, he had to pay the bills by working during the day and coming home at night to build his business. It was a tough balancing act of having a full-time job, spending time with his family, and building his future empire. Sleep was a luxury that he could not afford. His wife however, was no bystander. Nasieba helped him with his business by learning how to use the design software so that she could do the detailing while he was at work.
After being retrenched at SKF, Quinton and his partner started working fulltime on Nasquin Designs. Quinton says that they both have different strengths and used those strengths to build their business and each other. Quinton was good at the mechanical side whereas his partner was good at the electronic side.
The company first focused their business in manufacturing test units for electro-mechanical devices such as window winders, steering racks and jacks. Their first major contract came when they did a job for the tanneries but it was still not enough work. At the time, the automotive industry as well as the manufacturing industries in general was struggling to survive, and many companies were closing. Nasquin Designs did not generate significant income so they had to take on jobs in other industries such as pharmaceuticals, and food and beverage. It was only in the early 90’s, when sanctions started being lifted, that their business started flourishing. It was also during this time that Quinton merged Nasquin Designs with an electronics company called, Jendamark ECI. The merged company became known as Jendamark.
Over the years, the company had built a high level of expertise so when the economy improved; they were swamped with contract offers. They signed their first R500 000 contract in 1993 and since then, the company has gone from strength to strength. They did axle assembly installations for Volkswagen Polo, became an agent for KUKA robotics and Rexroth-Bosch Welding Systems, assembled and exported Catalytic Converters and Differentials, and the company is accredited to do welding for Boeing. However, the good times came to an abrupt end and Quinton’s faced his next major hurdle: the 2008 collapse of the world economy. Once again, instead of giving up, Quinton figured out a way to overcome this hurdle.
Quinton realised that there was no way Jendamark could survive if it only focused on the South African market. At the time, many companies in the automotive industry had to shut down and Quinton was not about to let that happen to Jendamark. He took a risk and started aggressively expanding Jendamark into the European and Asian markets.
At first, it was difficult because the export orders were few and far. However, he made sure that when they did export, the export volume was large enough to get them through the next few months. As time went on, the number of orders started to increase and thanks to Quinton’s relentless determination, not only did Jendamark’s profits jump significantly, but 90% of its business came from exports. As testament to his drive, the Exporters Club of South Africa awarded Jendamark with the 2014 ‘Exporter of the Year’ award and it is also received a special merit award for being a job creator.
Today, Jendamark has offices in India, Germany and the US; and it has a strong focus on expanding further into Europe and Asia. Its German office focuses largely on innovative research whereas most of its manufacturing is done in South Africa and India. The company is currently preparing itself for the arrival of industry 4.0 by integrating 3d technologies and artificial intelligence into its production process. As a private company, it does not reveal its financial statements to the public, but the company is estimated to generate annual revenues of at least R200 million.
Some might say that he had to overcome many hurdles, but Quinton Uren sees things differently. To him, behind every hurdle is an opportunity waiting to be discovered. When his bursary application was rejected, he saw an opportunity to save some money and get some work experience. When he was retrenched, he saw an opportunity to focus more of his energy on his business. When business was slow, he built experience in different industries and when the economy struggled, he expanded into new markets. Yes, to some, he overcame many hurdles, but for Quinton, every hurdle became an empire building discovery.