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Hard work or overnight wonder – what does it take to be successful in business?

Feb 15, 2022

Shakirah Hunter

It makes for an incredibly inspiring story – a young man who took money given to him by the government and turns it into a success story. Many had lamented that R350 a month was such a little amount, and this suddenly turns the narrative around. A young man taking this stipend – he uses it to build a positive story. One that might inspire the masses and have us all cheering with the emotion of it all. We all love happy stories. We wish the world was full of more stories like these. And yes, they do inspire, and they do motivate us towards working harder. But is it so simple? There are thousands if not hundreds of young unemployed South Africans, sitting with degrees, with experience and with no hope of success or any way out. Their inboxes sit with so many declined emails and a sense of disillusionment fills the air.  The story of Thando Makhubu is without aa doubt an inspiring one:

Makhubu was mentioned by the president during the state of the nation address

It all started with an image of an ice cream that caught his eye on Pinterest.Now, 18 months later, Thando Makhubu of Jabulani in Soweto owns a booming gourmet ice cream business he kick-started by saving up his social relief of distress (SRD) grant.

SA went into lockdown in 2020 and the R350 grant was introduced for unemployed citizens and qualifying foreign citizens in distress.Makhubu got a mention during the state of the nation address on Thursday when President Cyril Ramaphosa said he had used his R350 grant to start an ice-cream shop which now employs four people.

The president made it seem as if the grant was directly responsible for the success of this young man- without a doubt the money is definitely a great opportunity for young people, however it cannot be divorced from the many factors that determine success.

  1. Having a financial support structure

The young man makes mention of the fact that he was able to still live at home – although with sacrifice – but he did not have to contribute to the financial running of the home. This factor plays a massive part in anyone being able to save and focus on investments- we have to recognize that on the part of this young man, he was able to save due to the support and ability to rely on family even while he saved and cut out many luxuries so that he was able to do so.

2.Qualifications and education impact success

A key factor that we sometimes downplay when we look at success stories like this one, is the fact that education and qualifications impact one’s ability to make sound financial decisions and to know how to navigate the tricky world of marketing and business.

Makhubu, 30, a qualified fashion designer and photographer, said his income was affected by the Covid-19 lockdown. He has always had a love for entrepreneurship. “No events were taking place so people didn’t need my services and one thing I saw is that I need to start a business that people would need, no matter what happens.”“One thing I realised is that my aggressive marketing strategy is working, so I have to keep on reminding people that I’m here, and they forget about the weather and come for the treats.”He uses social media platforms to advertise his business.

3. Who you know matters:

We would love nothing more than hear a positive story where a person makes it up from the ground with no help and no connections. The myth that it only takes hard work and more hard work – but the reality is that more than anything else who you know is an integral part of every successful venture. What took his ice cream business to success level – was definitely hard work and vision – but a client who is well connected creates waves and builds clientele. The old saying who you know far supersedes what you know.

His first client was socialite Mohale Motaung.

“I’ve known Mohale for a while and sometimes he uses my services as his photographer, so after creating my first ice cream I invited him to come to taste it. He posted a photo of himself with the ice cream on social media to thousands of his followers. The rest is history.” 

4. Access to technology and the online world creates different opportunities

Having access to Pinterest , internet connections , marketing knowledge and even an online following creates a different platform altogether and cannot be divorced from the success of this young man.

Ramaphosa attached the success of the ice cream man to the R350 grant – while the money helps – it certainly does not account for all the other factors that motivate success. Success stories like this don’t take into consideration the hardwork, support structures in place as well as access to different skills and connection to the right people

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