KNSP’s Founder and Managing Director, Cedric Kinshella, is no stranger to hard work and dedication. He knows what it takes to work through obstacles, out-perform competitors and come out the other side successful.
Born in District 6 under the Apartheid Government, his parents were both factory workers. His father worked in a leather factory while his mother worked at Baumann’s Biscuits in Woodstock.
Cedric was the oldest of 6 children and shortly after the Group Areas Act came in, he and his family were moved to Hanover Park which became a dangerous, gang-ridden area.
Very few families make it out of the environment in which they lived. Either they get sucked into the negative influences and gangsterism or they just keep on struggling where they are.
Despite growing up in hard and very humble circumstances, he credits his parents, particularly his mother, with being strict, keeping the children out of the drug and gangster scene, and teaching them the value of hard work. Cedric was determined not to become a statistic and to move his family forward.
At the time there were not many opportunities for people of colour but Cedric had dreams of joining the navy and working in the Naval Yard. These dreams were short-lived when he had to leave school to so that he could work to help support the family.
“We lived in a block of about 60 flats and each family had on average about 3 families living in each flat. We had approximately 35 – 40m2 for 6 children,” he says.
We lived in a block of about 60 flats and each family had on average about 3 families living in each flat. We had approximately 35 – 40m2 for 6 children.
Although he had to leave school at 14, he completed his schooling later on through night school. Similarly, in subsequent working years, he took opportunities to further his education by taking various courses. This included a Management diploma, which he completed through the University of Stellenbosch, as well as various Procurement Management courses.
At 14, he went to work for Baumann’s Biscuits where his mom used to work in Woodstock. He was a thin, scrawny little boy. He remembers working on the Choc Krust plant. His job was separating the crumbs from the biscuits. He would stand on his feet for 9 hours a day, every day but he was still quite ambitious and soon he was given more responsibility at work.
“Today I understand what my mom needed to do, and what she needed me to do, to help support the family,” he shares.
Today I understand what my mom needed to do, and what she needed me to do, to help support the family.
Cedric quickly moved up the ranks and became one of the first people at Baumann’s to leave the company and take up a management role at another company. He became the Operations Manager at Compass Bakery in Kommetjie where he continued to work for 7 years in a management role.
During this time, the area in which Cedric and his family lived continued to be a dangerous and hostile environment for him and his family. Gangsterism was rife. Death, stabbings, robbery as well as fighting with the neighbours were a daily occurrence.
Cedric also had an added difficulty; he couldn’t speak properly and would stutter. This often made him a target but he continued to work hard, attend church and play rugby. He was determined.
As his sister started becoming a young woman, he realised he needed to get his family out of the environment in which they lived. He was able to rent a place in Mitchells Plain which worked out much better for his family. While he didn’t understand the impact of his decision then, his family still thank him to this day. Cedric’s decision changed not only the course of his life but of theirs too.
After working at Compass Bakery for many years; Cedric worked for various other companies in management positions, including Tiger Foods. It was at Tiger Foods that Cedric got involved in procurement. He loved the job. It was very technical and it challenged him.
Cedric then moved on to Cape Herb and Spice. One could say this was a turning point in his career. Here he took up a full procurement management role in which he excelled.
His new skills and experience led him to taking up a procurement role at a Natural Stone supplier. While there were good and bad times at this new job, one thing is certain, if he did not have all the experiences he had while working there it would not have led him down his new entrepreneurial path.
When he was retrenched from his job in 2009, in the wake of the global financial crisis, a contact of his in Indonesia, whom he had got to know well during his time in the natural stone business, suggested that he start his own business importing natural stone. In 2009, he started KNSP (Kinshella Natural Stone Projects).
Although he had never seen himself as an entrepreneur, he had the knowledge about the imports and logistics side of the business, understood the cost structure and was good at managing people. “Having said that, I hadn’t ever met with an architect or done much in the front lines of the business,” he says.
Having said that, I hadn’t ever met with an architect or done much in the front lines of the business
With determination, and with part of his retrenchment pay-out, he purchased a container of sandstone cladding which was known to be overpriced in the market and which he believed he could sell successfully at a better price than it was generally going for. “I didn’t have a warehouse or a showroom or anything, because I’d spent most of my money on the stone itself. So, as it came into Cape Town Harbour I sold it off the water,” he recalls.
I didn’t have a warehouse or a showroom or anything, because I’d spent most of my money on the stone itself. So, as it came into Cape Town Harbour I sold it off the water.
Everything came full circle when Cedric set up a showroom at the Palm Centre which originally was the Baumann’s Biscuits factory. He has now moved his showroom to Woodstock Main Road, which has good exposure and is conveniently located in what has become a buzzing creative hub.
Cedric always tries to offer the very best to his clients and he wanted KNSP to offer something different. They became a part of the Marble institute of America. They approached an Architectural Institute to offer courses. This did not work out and became quite a costly affair, yielding very little results. After the third year, they did not continue. However, Cedric learnt a great deal and this added to the quality service that KNSP continues to offer.
Cedric took his new training and experience and expanded KNSP’s offering to include stonemasonry work, complicated marble applications, countertops, paving, stone cladding and more.
Things were looking good and Cedric continued to offer unmatched service and products. It was due to this that he was approached by a large company for a top-end project. Due to his procurement skills, he was able to offer a very specific marble from Turkey which was specified in this project. His marble was selected. After 8/9 months of working with this company, his marble was specified in the bills of quantities.
Cedric was elated; his hard work and dedication had paid off. Unfortunately, this was short-lived. When the Contractor was awarded the tender, Cedric appeared to be excluded from the contract even though they had requested KNSP’s specific marble. Nevertheless, it was a learning experience in Cedric’s entrepreneurial journey but at the same time the start of bigger and better things.
Kinshella Natural Stone Projects now has a couple of high profile projects under its belt, including having supplied natural stone for the Green Point Athletics Stadium in Cape Town and the V&A Waterfront’s new food court. The company has supplied stone for several luxury homes around Cape Town, and is also busy with the No 5 Silo project at the V&A Waterfront, and the Le Parc de Mont Choisy Golf Estate at the Grand Baie in Mauritius. All these have helped Cedric to start building a strong profile for the business.
Another interesting project they have recently been appointed to, is for the import of tiles for the District 6 project.
Cedric and his team source stone such as travertine, marble, sandstone, basalt, granite and limestone from Africa, Turkey, Indonesia and India. While the business is based in Cape Town, it is able to supply stone to customers anywhere in South Africa and even further afield in Africa.
Cedric and KNSP give every project detailed attention. Cedric’s procurement skills are key. He can deliver directly to site and he makes sure each project receives their required products timeously. This ensures the project keeps to its time constraints, which is often an issue in the industry.
Cedric’s story is a story of hope and hard work. He continues to grow his business with the same values and passion that has driven him to this point. He continues to make every client and their project a priority.
With Kinshella Natural Stone Projects now in its seventh year of business, Cedric has certainly beaten the odds. Although it has not been easy by any means, the fact that he is no stranger to hard work and adversity has probably stood him in excellent stead, and will continue to do so as he continues down a path which he never dreamed he would one day tread, but which he is treading with conviction – and at the same time, empowering himself and others.