We interviewed the founding team of one of our Fund One portfolio companies, Colorgen SA. Here is what Quinten Rodway, Sales Director, and Conon Burrell, Commercial and Operations Director, had to say:
Quinten, you started this business back in 2014. Tell us what Colorgen does?
We started in 2014 as a “buy and sell” business model importing finished goods from Colorgen UK. In the beginning I started out consulting for Colorgen UK and then saw the gap for establishing Colorgen SA. We supply printing inks, coatings and adhesives to the narrow web, mid web and flexibles markets. Focusing mainly on energy cured products, UV, UVLED and electronic beam (EB).
Conon, you’re a chemical engineer and highly qualified. You relocated your family with four kids to Australia, where you were running a successful chemicals business. Why did you come back to South Africa?
We had a good few years in Aus and our time away really helped to shift our negative perspective of South Africa. It was when Mandela died that I sat watching documentaries on Aussie TV about his life and our country’s complicated past, that I realised how little I knew about what really went on and how much of the truth had been withheld from me. Sitting there, it dawned on me that I was ploughing my trade and skills into another country for its good and felt a strong stirring in my heart to return to South Africa where I could be part of the solution. To make a difference in our beautiful country and be an agent for positive change, job creation, empowerment and to help the people of our land reach their full potential. To see their dreams fulfilled. I strongly believe that our country’s best days are still to come!
Quinten, what does the expansion of Colorgen look like? Is selling into export markets on the cards?
We have already started exporting into some of the surrounding SADC countries, mainly East Africa. It’s difficult to keep our feet on the ground as we start moving into these export markets; at the same time it’s very exciting. Conon and I are trying to pace ourselves and allow for organic growth. Growth is good, but can have its challenges. This is where Kingson have helped us carve a way forward.
In terms of expansion, we are focusing on R&D (Research and development) in a big way going into 2019, our customer base in South Africa especially, is very innovative and the print & packaging market is always changing and developing. It’s important for Colorgen SA to keep up with market trends and make sure we stay ahead of our game and keep developing our product alongside our customers.
We have big dreams and ambitions, we want to put South Africa on the map in terms of competing on a global scale, leading in technology and innovation. We have the same access to raw material suppliers and technology as the big corporate ink companies do, so why not develop from within South Africa? I think we have massive opportunities opening up here in South Africa. We have started laying a solid platform poised for exponential growth.
Conon, have you worked in a VC backed business before and how has the experience been compared to traditionally funded companies?
This is my first opportunity working in a VC backed company and I am not sure if it is like this with all VC companies, but we have thoroughly enjoyed partnering with Kingson Capital. They have been incredibly supportive and have really got into the trenches with us to help steer our business on the right path. My previous experience has been with multinationals and in general they have strict corporate policies that can make it quite frustrating for entrepreneur types like Quinten and I to run with opportunities and vision, to make the sometimes quick decisions that are required to take advantage of the circumstances at hand. We are trusting that we will have the opportunity to work on more projects with Kingson into the future.