EcoPlanet Bamboo's company culture has always been one of giving people a hand up and providing them a platform from which their only limitation is their own attitude and will to succeed. This is one of the core visions of CEO and Co-Founder Troy Wiseman, a serial entrepreneur with an enormous heart for people.
So we at Core Carbon are thrilled that the inspiring story of one of our team members has been featured in an article by Environment SA. Read more on how Stone Nkoweni went from a gardener on the Kowie Bamboo Farm to a bamboo charcoal connoisseur, as well as being deeply involved with the R&D carried out by our sister company, EPB Laboratories!
“Stone” Nkokweni – An Inspiring Story of a Bamboo Charcoal Connoisseur
Patrick “Stone” Nkokweni started working for EcoPlanet Bamboo in July 2014 as a gardener for the areas surrounding the newly initiated Core Carbon factory. It was quickly noticed by management that Stone was sharp, willing to learn new skills and eager to play a role wherever he was needed. Those qualities made him excel and in less than 6 months, he went from a gardener to a lab technician. He eventually became our Bamboo Charcoal Connoisseur, carrying out scientifically determined R&D on our charcoal and eventually becoming responsible for the production of bamboo charcoal on Kowie Bamboo Farm.Stone had a trying journey to get to where he is today, but those experiences shaped him and all that was missing for him was someone to give him the opportunities to excel.
Here is Stone’s story:
Stone grew up in the Peddie area of the Eastern Cape where his father was the local Chief. His father had 2 wives and Stone was the first born of the second wife. In total there were 10 children in his family. In 1991, his father moved his mother and siblings to Bathurst in fear of political retaliation and in search of somewhere safe for his kids to grow up.
Stone had a loving upbringing. He was an avid soccer player and got the name Stone from his teammates because he was a tough player. Yet the family had financial hardships and struggled to provide for school fees and basic necessities. After finishing grade 8, Stone decided that he had enough hardship and would no longer burden his family. Without telling anyone, he got on a bus and headed to Cape Town. He soon found work at a clothing factory. For 2 years he packed stock and prepared shipments.
The owner took a liking to him and gave him sound advice, “Son, you’re too young for this work. You need to go back and finish matric (high school). If you need a job during the holidays, you can always come back, but go make something of yourself.” Stone headed back to Bathurst and although being now older than the rest of the kids in school, finished matric.
After graduation, Stone was accepted to University where he intended to study tourism. However, due to lack of funds, he couldn’t go. Instead, he started working odd jobs in Bathurst. There were very few available employment opportunities but that didn’t stop Stone from keeping busy. He taught himself building techniques and managed to get work building houses through the government’s rural development program.
An opportunity presented itself for Stone to go to Port Elizabeth and work for a petrol station. The company saw his potential and promoted him to the supervisor. During his time in PE, he also bought himself a car and started working odd jobs in his time off. He was flourishing in PE but back home his father had fallen ill and one day he got the tragic phone call that his father had passed away.
As his mother’s first born, he felt the need to be home again and help his family. At the same time, an incident of his family’s cattle – their lifeblood – being stolen was the pivoting point that brought him back home to Bathurst to care for his family and put their interests first.
“The challenge with Bathurst is a lack of opportunity ” says Stone. For driven young men and women, there are few jobs and even fewer jobs with growth opportunities. Being a positive person, Stone continued to work odd jobs until he heard of a gardener opening at Kowie Bamboo Charcoal Farm. Despite this being such a basic position with no clear place to rise, Stone’s humble nature allowed him no hesitation, and he applied for the job. Stone’s hard work and dedication to his job saw him progress from a gardener to Lab Tech and rapidly into the Bamboo Charcoal Connoisseur he is today. As Lab Tech Stone was responsible for the use of high-tech scientific equipment used in a various analysis of biomass resources – a job that relies on accuracy, attention to detail and an intricate understanding of the purpose of each test is carried out.
As Bamboo Charcoal Connoisseur Stone assists in the continual improvement of technology, the comparison of feedstocks and ensuring that the bamboo charcoal produced by Core Carbon is of the highest quality, as well as maintaining stringent operating procedures and health and safety standards.He says the position has given him job security and the hope for a better future, which allows him to plan for his family’s needs – the most important part for him is ensuring his daughter has a good education and a bright future. EcoPlanet Bamboo Charcoal is grateful to have him as part of the team and hopes that not only will Stone continue to rise, but that he will be an inspiration to all those around him.
General Cele, Deputy Minister of DAFF Assessing some bamboo activated carbon udergoing testing in EPB Labs by Stone
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