For Liberian Steve Davies, it is a pleasure to get up in the morning and commute to work at his own company. He describes it simply as "wonderful". Steve is the CEO of JD Trading – a cement company located in the heart of the Liberian capital, Monrovia. His enthusiasm can perhaps be explained by the fact that ever since childhood he has always dreamt of being an entrepreneur.
"To start up my own business has always been a dream," says Steve. It is profitable, you make the decisions and run your own company.
Liberia, in West Africa, has experienced decades of civil war and violence. Since 2003, a fragile peace is in place and the country is slowly recovering. An important aspect of the reconstruction is the development of private companies to create more jobs and economic growth. Several reforms have been implemented to facilitate companies and, between 2008 and 2010, approximately 20,000 new jobs were created.
After three years as manager of a South African construction company, Steve started his own company in 2004. His previous employer came to Liberia to extract iron ore, but the venture failed. Steve decided to turn this disappointment to an advantage, and conducted his own scan of the needs of the Liberian market. He discovered a niche within the building sector where the need was great; cement.
Liberia finds itself in the middle of reconstruction efforts following the war and is in great need of restoring basic infrastructure such as roads, schools and hospitals. In this context, cement is essential for the country's development. However, during the last 75 years, there has only been one company that imports cement in Liberia. It was only recently that the monopoly was broken and other companies started importing. A new importer who availed of the opportunity was the Chinese Sinmid Co. Today, Steve's company is the only distributor of cement for Sinmid.
"When the monopoly was broken, I took the opportunity to really make a difference for my country and to also create a better life for myself and my family," he says. Although Steve has no formal business education, he now runs a medium-sized company with 25 employees. He has an administrative team of five people and the rest work with distributing cement around Monrovia. He is very proud of his staff.
"They are thorough and keep coming up with new ideas about how we can improve. It is thanks to them that we can develop the operations," he says.
Steve can now reap the rewards of all the hard work he put into the company.
"I no longer need to wait for a salary from someone else. I have a place to live and financial security for me and my family," he says.
Thanks to a loan, Steve has been able to further develop his operations to meet the increasing demand from customers. For example, he now has better storage facilities and more trucks for distribution. He is paying back the loan of 464,000 dollars within five years.
"Cement is important for the building of roads, schools, hospitals, bridges and other buildings. My customers all participate in the building of this infrastructure," explains Davies.