March was a special and momentous month for Progression as we celebrated our 15th anniversary. Moving from a small start-up company to a leader in the industry of transformation calls for celebration. It also calls for forward thinking as our greatest accomplishments still lie ahead of us.
Our journey started in March 2002 and was the result of, what I jokingly call, “a Bipolar moment”. I met my first business partner, Stacey Leslie, while working for a non profit organisation where I trained people with disabilities.
Stacey, who was working for a recruitment agency at the time, asked for our assistance in recruiting people with disabilities for the finance industry.
During our meeting, I shared my visionwas overwhelmed with excitement as I voiced my opinion on what I believed should be happening with regards to people with disabilities in the workplace, the Skills Development Act and learnerships. I believed that learnerships were the perfect vehicle in getting people with disabilities into the open labour market.
The meeting ended with countless ideas and goals floating around in my busy mind and the determination that one day these would become a reality.
I didn’t realise how quickly that reality would materialise until a couple of days later when Stacey requested that we have another meeting. It was in that significant meeting that we decided to go for it and start a business. And so, Progression was born in March 2002. A month later, we were joined by Zarina Bulbulia, who is still with us today and has become an integral part of the Progression family, a business partner as well as a dear friend.
Progression spent most of its first year in Stacey’s dining room, where the three of us, along with one computer, would work for hours on end getting the business up and running.
When people say that it takes “blood, sweat and tears” to start a business, they aren’t joking. Those first few years were filled with many sleepless nights, hard work and empty pockets but more so with laughter, colleagues that turned into friends and memories that will last a lifetime.
Our first project, which had nothing to do with the core business, was to compile a service directory for the Johannesburg Municipality. It was tireless work but kept us afloat for a few months until we started working with our next client, the JD Group, on our first learnership project for people with disabilities.
Unfortunately, the highs are sometimes interrupted by lows. Progression’s low came knocking on the door in November 2007. At the time, Progression was receiving most, if not all, of its income from The Department of Labour and SETAs, which collectively owed us quite a substantial amount of money. This negatively impacted us financially and as a result, we had to retrench all ten of our employees. Zarina and I made the call to continue with Progression and move forward. Moments like these made us realise the importance of resilience and determination and ultimately made us and the company stronger.
This was also a defining moment in Progression’s life as it was the leading factor in our decision to stop relying on government funding and led to a complete change in our business model. Progression was now considered to be a consulting company and would deal with corporates directly, this being a successful and sustainable model which we still follow today.
Thinking about our journey since we opened our doors, fills me with enormous pride. I would never have thought that one moment of pure excitement and risk would be so rewarding and enrich my life and the lives of so many others.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of our clients, employees, candidates, learners, friends and family for being an important part of Progression’s journey. We hope that you will continue on this journey with us as we become South Africa’s leading “Transformation Enablers”.