Building a business takes time. You don’t always see the progress, but you trust the process.
You start with an idea that’s burning in your gut and you invest time and effort into your business. You’ve lost count of how many doors have been slammed in your face, how many times the bank has called you about insufficient funds in your account, and you can’t remember the last time you bought groceries. You take a breath and read the newspaper poster on the side of the road – Apple is worth $1 trillion. How did they do that, you ask yourself?
Most large corporations began as start-ups with very little capital. People like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk all started somewhere, and their stories are here to inspire you. In 1975, Apple started in a garage – Steve Jobs sold his Volkswagen microbus and Steve Wozniak sold his Hewlett-Packard calculator to raise the capital needed to launch the prototype of Apple 1. Amazon was another multimillion-dollar business that started in a garage: Jeff Bezos started selling books online from his garage in 1995 and today it’s the largest online shopping store in the world.
Innovation often comes from the most unconventional, everyday events. Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman and his wife were making waffles for breakfast one morning when the grooves made by the waffle machine inspired him. In fact, the first Nike shoe was made in a waffle iron! It was patented in 1974 and the rest, as they say, is history!
South Africa has no shortage of success stories. Remember Lebo Gunguluza from South Africa’s Dragons Den? When he arrived in Durban, all he had was a dream and R60 in his pocket. He made his first million in the first year of opening his business, Gunguluza Entertainment, and subsequently spent it all. But he was determined to learn so he spent time in a local bookstore and read business books. If they chased him away, he would go home, change his clothes, and come back. Today he is a group chairman at GEM Group, a turnaround strategist, and a motivational speaker.
Still not convinced? You’ll be surprised to know that one of the most successful franchises in South Africa was built on a plate of falafel that cost just R5. Anat Apter is the founder of the falafel and shawarma franchise Anat. She bought a food trailer in 1991 and paid it off in six months. Today there are more than 20 stores around the country.
Another local go-getter who built her business and media empire in the last 25 years is Basetsana Kumalo who won the Miss South Africa pageant in 1994 and became the First Princess in the Miss World Competition. Basetsana used her public profile and networking opportunities to launch her professional career. At 20, she helped negotiate the deal for Top Billing to become an independent production house. She managed to secure a 50% partnership in Top Billing’s production company, Tswelopele Productions. Basetsana became a spokeswoman for Revlon and designed her own range of eyewear and fashion.
Every business takes time to grow, so give yourself the opportunity to grow and learn as well, says Amalesh Authar, director of business growth specialists Alpenglow Consulting. His business partner, Rowan Sewchurran of the Writers’ Bureau, agrees. “People deal with people, so build relationships. And don’t be afraid to do whatever it takes to make your brand known,” said Rowan. And the secret sauce for longevity? Amalesh and Rowan concur that energy and effort are two common denominators they have seen in every successful business.
The SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Development Programme provides entrepreneurs with invaluable skills through mentorship and hands on workshops. The foundation is committed to providing opportunities for small, medium and micro-sized enterprises for women and youth, people in rural areas, as well as people with disabilities.
Steve Jobs said: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”