Jeandre set to grow his Steel and Pipe empire

MEETING Jeandre van Derhan, a 24-year-old seemed like a person who wanted to cough out some inaccuracies in the media and he spared no punches.

He made headlines recently as the youngest owner and founder of Steelkor Steel and Pipe.

But what was supposed to be an interview turned out to be a friendly meeting, by someone who has been yearning to clear some air.

As we meet at the Wonderboom Airport in the outskirts of Pretoria, a drive not far from his office, he tells SLM that he did not at any given time, was financially backed by his family.

“Yes, I do have my family and they’ve supported all of my future endeavours but they did not provide any financial means to start this business,” he says with stern face.

“Neither did I get a loan, overdraft from any banking institution. All I had when I started were few clients and R820 from my pocket. That’s all. This is setting the record straight,” he asserts with authority.

With no formal education in the steel industry, he relied on knowledge he had gained from various jobs, namely in the steel industry, as a sales representative.

“Right after school I started working for a steel engineering company. I was appointed to buy steel for the company. That’s where I got most of my knowledge and the bug of starting my own had bitten and there was no turning back,” he tells SLM.

The Steelkor Steel and Pipe company is reportedly valued at R7.5m on the market but that has not deterred Jeandre, not to pursue for more business opportunities in the country and abroad.

He plans to open a fully-fledged warehouse in Bela-Bela, Limpopo, as a result of the demand in a year, because ‘I’m in love with this industry’.

Jeandre, in his strong Afrikaans accent, peppered with ‘Queens Language’ briefly tells that the company was started during the Covid-19 hard lock-down.

“A client of mine who manufactures for Ford, BMW and Nissan were looking for steel and since some of the companies were not operating at optimal level due to lockdown, I was tasked to provide material timeously and boom that’s how I found myself in this stressful but meaningful business.”

In five years-time he plans to have established three or five warehouses in Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga, for he tells, generate more customers including Cape Town and Namibia.

“An informed client, is a happy client,” says Jeandre, an impulse he learnt from an old client.

For business advices he looks up to the likes of former US President Donald Trump and his book ‘Think Big and Kick Ass: In Business and in Life’ and Pretoria born, world’s billionaire Elon Musk.

Known to his family as ‘choppie’ a nickname he got from his old-man in Tzaneen, Limpopo province, says he and girlfriend will settle soon and start a family, as long as the foundation of the company is stable.

“One cannot settle when all the ducks are not in the same row, because they will go astray. It will affect business, clients and employees, and I can’t afford to go that route,” he warns.

Currently the company has five staff members and very soon will add more (especially youth) as it grows and branches out to other regions.

The former rugby player who no longer has time for it due to his tight schedule (it took two-weeks to arrange this audience) had to drop out from completing his pilot license because his business was demanding more of him in the office; but promises to complete his remaining 15-hours to obtain his license.

“I will definitely complete my 15-hours and become a fully qualified pilot,” says Jeandre, now with a calm face -who was joined in by a fellow female commercial pilot for interview.

Albeit, he does not relax as much as he would love to, he enjoys driving long distances (its therapeutic for him) and loves watching all kinds of planes at Wonderboom Airport, in the company of his coffee.

Image JACOB Mawela (First love. Steelkor Steel and Pipe boss Jeandre van Derhan, standing behind airplanes at the Wonderboom Airport, Pretoria. He admitted will obtain his pilot license soon).

As we bid bye-byes one would have expected the palm of his hands to be full of blisters and greased oil nails, alas not!

“I sit behind the computer from 2am until late- that’s why my hands are these softie” says the ‘ginger-bomber’ with a tongue in cheek.

 Image JACOB Mawela (Setting the record straight. Jeandre van Derhan, the founder of Steelkor and Pipe, recorded pending an interview at Villa San Giovanni restaurant at Wonderboom Airport outside Pretoria).

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