DURBAN – LIVING large and in charge of their destiny, some of Durban’s emerging young black diamonds are on a quest for success, but it has not been an easy journey to the top.
June is Youth Month in South Africa and commemorates the brave young people of June 16, 1976 who stood up to apartheid, and some young business people are living their own fairy tales, despite their humble backgrounds.
From selling prepaid cellphone starter packs and chargers, and the other once working in a tollbooth and being a runner at a North Beach restaurant, hard work and determination has seen them convert pennies to millions.
The million rand houses, overseas trips and designer cars are the fruits of their labour, they say, and it can be available to more young people.
Siya Majozi, who owns Zorka Social Lounge on Durban’s popular Florida Road, has recently bought herself and her family of three girls a R3 million home in a lush Mount Edgecombe estate.
A little over a decade ago, you could have bumped into the 35-year-old bubbly businesswoman at a Wimpy where she worked as a runner after being kicked out of university for not paying her fees.
The Gingindlovu-born woman, who holds an IMM Graduate School marketing diploma and an MBA, now has interests in farming, quarry mining, construction, engineering and hygiene services. She turned to business after quitting her lucrative commission-based job at a pesticide company as a sales agent, before knicking clients and going solo.
Since most of her monthly upkeep was commission based, a mere R50 000 came out of her pension fund and she bought a jalopy at auction. But these days, she travels in a sexy Sport Utility Vehicle, and around the world. Her oldest daughter, Nandipha, is head girl at Maris Stella – a prestigious private school on the Berea.
But she is not oblivious to the growing unemployment scourge facing youth – particularly black Africans.
“Most of the youth are government dependent,” bemoans Majozi. “There are so many opportunities out there, outside government and even within government, you just need to wake up and go for it,” she urges.
When Majozi quit her R30 000-a- month job in 2008, she took a leap of faith and registered her hygiene business, securing a R15 000 monthly contract with a former client of her former employers, fixed for two years.
Gradually, she made contacts and received more small work until her little hygiene services based business made her enough money to diversify interests into the income drivers of engineering and construction within 10 years.
Siya Majozi says youth must never give up on their dreams. Pictures: Niamh Walsh-Vorster/ANA Pictures
“I used to bid for contracts but never got them for a long time,” she recalls. “But I never gave up, I kept trying and trying while I was getting my own private clients with small contracts until I got a R850 000 contract at Prince Mshiyeni Hospital.
“Success does not happen overnight; when at times you feel like you want to quit, that is when you must try harder.
“I know I am not where I want to be, I am on a journey. I feel like a (Patrice) Motsepe who wakes up everyday and works hard at his age. I could sit and be a house mom, but I want to be a Motsepe, I don’t want to ever struggle again – I have people who depend on me to pay salaries, they are depending on me, so my energy is connected to so many people,” she said.
And uMhlanga’s Calvin Mathibeli, 29, the owner of the Calvin and Family Group (CFG) – an entity which owns 10 business subsidiaries, whose entrepreneurial journey started while studying towards his accounting certificate at Durban University of Technology and squatting with friends in residence.
At one point in his life, before he was a Bentley-chauffeured boss, he would sell cellphone starter packs and chargers on South Beach and walk to varsity.
Calvin Mathibeli used to walk to varsity from South Beach to the Berea, these days, he is driven in Bentleys, Mercs and Porsches. Picture: Niamh Walsh-Vorster/ANA Pictures
Ten years later, after making the most of his initial success in buying and reselling land, he is now a multi-millionaire with a diverse business portfolio in property development, construction, media, security, engineering and hospitality.
His goal is to employ 5 000 people within five years, he currently employs 900 people across under CFG.
Calvin Mathibeli, the owner of the Calvin and Family Group at his companies new La Lucia head offices. Pictures: Niamh Vorster-Walsh/ANA Pictures
“I never had money to start a business, but I had a vision,” he reflects during an interview at CFG’s new head offices in La Lucia, bought for a precious R7m – which arguably is chump change to him.
“I realised early that success is a choice, it’s not about luck. I never had money. The reason I did what I did was to be able to pay for my fees and to be able to pay rent and sleep, because I could not create havoc at university because I am poor,” he said.
Mathibeli, who has never met his father, said saving money and constant improvement was key because “tomorrow is an opportunity to do better than today”.
“Start small but dream big, you must be willing to work hard because the journey of life in business is never easy. What I have gone through is not easy. If you want to be successful, you must walk every step because each step prepares you for the future, so that when success catches up with you, it must come when you are prepared, it must never overwhelm you,” he said.
He said young people must look for business everywhere and not only rely on government tenders as they were erratic with late payments.
“Don’t wait for government to make opportunities, tell your story your own way, do not expect anything to be done for you, work hard and work smart,” he said.