South Africans raise funds and encourage a KZN business owner not to give up after looting
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DURBAN - A Pinetown small business owner left devastated after his business was looted during the civil unrest this month said the support from the public has encouraged him to rebuild his business.
Rodney van Rooyen, 34, owner of The Bike Shack in Pinetown, told The Mercury earlier this month that his business was stripped to the walls and that he would not be able to keep it running.
Van Rooyen watched helplessly as looters wheeled his motorcycles, worth around R900 000, away as he and some friends tried to salvage what they could.
He said after the interview with The Mercury on July 15, he was “very down and not feeling positive” about what would come next.
“I woke up the next day still very despondent about it and very negative, it was very hard to be positive in that mind frame. I said to my girlfriend, there’s no way we can continue and come back.”
However once his heartbreaking account of what had happened to his business spread, his phone began ringing non-stop.
“A lady phoned to say ‘I read your story and I feel like I have to tell you that you can’t give up’.
“Through the course of the day, support just started coming in, my phone didn't stop with WhatsApps and calls, and I ended up that evening sitting in bed again, and I just said ’I can't just take this knock and not move forward. I have to. I don't have a choice, I have to rebuild this business’.”
Van Rooyen said in the space of a day, everything had changed.
“My mindset changed and I couldn't stop saying ’thank you’ enough to people ... every two minutes my phone would ring and it would be someone offering help and that just continued for a week.”
He said people from KwaZulu and from Cape Town and Johannesburg had donated money and held fund-raisers to assist him.
“I never thought people would just out of the goodness of their hearts come together and help us out ... People just donated R100, R500, R1 000 and it's been phenomenal.”
Van Rooyen said even some suppliers have offered him stock when the business is back up and running, while some top South African riders donated jerseys to raffle, which has made “quite a bit of money to help out”.
He said he would definitely rebuild his business but still had to conclude his insurance claims and decide whether he would move back into the same property or move to a bigger and safer location.
“All these donations that have come in are going to keep us afloat for the time that we need to rebuild.”
Van Rooyen said he would pay his mechanic half of his salary but could not afford to pay staff if they were not working.
He said his mechanic had set up a temporary workshop with his friend, who works from home,with the tools, benches and other items that were saved from the business, while he had secured his workshop assistant a few days of work at other bike shops.
“I'm trying to swing as much work as I can there, so that he gets an hourly rate. It’s temporary and it’s not full on, but we have a few services going just to keep some money in his pocket.”
He said what this ordeal has taught him is that there is still a lot of goodness out there.
“If people didn't come to help us we would still be in a dark place.”
Van Rooyen described how many people who contacted him said that they had also been helped during difficult situations and this was a way to pay it forward.
“I think that's kind of the same thing I'm going to take forward with this. If I can grow and better the business through this, I will definitely do the same.
“The next time something comes around, I can tell you I will be the first one to put a hand up to do what I can for someone else in this situation.”
Van Rooyen thanked all those who assisted and encouraged him not to give up.
“All I can say is, thank you. Not just for helping me financially or with a product or stock. I feel like I have to thank people for changing the way I see and think about this whole thing. I think it's going to be, in the end, a positive change in my life.”