The Anatomy of…Siphiwe Tshabalala

The Anatomy of…Siphiwe Tshabalala


Work hard and stay hungry

If you want to be successful, you’ve got to work hard and stay hungry no matter what happens.

When I was growing up, I always wanted to be a professional soccer player. I started playing on the streets of Soweto like any other kid.

But as I grew up, got better and joined different clubs, sometimes I’d have to be away from my family that I’m very close with; sometimes I couldn’t afford train tickets to training and would need to borrow someone’s; and at sometimes I even had to walk long distances. But I knew it was a platform I needed to be noticed, so I saw the value in enduring the hardships.

My important lessons

I’ve learnt important lessons in sport that I translate into business.

One is that you’re only as good as your last game. Your success is determined by the drive and effort you put in to reach it. If you lose the hunger to be the best, you’ll lose your edge.

The second lesson is to grab opportunity with both hands. Sport is a short-lived career and you have to make the best of it while it lasts. I’ve enjoyed my career, but you also have to plan for when it is over.

Changing perception vs. reality

I moved into business to break the perception of soccer players misusing their money and not being serious about their financial future. 

I recognise the importance of planning a life while I’m still at my best as I’m able to leverage my personal brand for the benefit of my business. I can be a role model who enjoys nice things, but it’s essential to invest and create extra income for when your soccer salary ends.

People respond to me because they see Tshabalala the soccer player. But as they realise I’m a thinker and someone who wants to do business well, that’s when they lend an ear. I make sure that if they give me a chance, I won’t disappoint them.

Establishing my own empire

Going into business helped me establish my own empire.

I started as a brand ambassador for The Fish & Chip Co franchise, but saw an opportunity to invest too. So in 2011 I bought my first franchise, and in 2014 invested in another. Because I still play soccer, I’ve hired managers to run the stores, and profits go into the business or to building capital for another store.

Being in business is my long-term investment, so I’m also looking into other businesses like my joint venture deal with Outdoor Network, an outdoor advertising company.

I like to have a little fun with customers who come into the stores just to take a picture with me when I’m there. I’ll tell them, ‘If you buy a small chips or a Russian, I’ll take a picture with you.’ It’s all a joke and I’m grateful for their support. It’s humbling being a celebrity and humility is important even when people are rude.

When I’m not training or playing soccer, I’m an indoor person and I like watching nature programmes on TV. I also like visiting my family. But I always go to my stores when I have time.

Knowing what’s going on in your business is essential. I specifically chose my childhood best friend to be my first store manager because I knew if I gave him the responsibility, he’d grab it with both hands and do his best.

No shortcuts

I teach kids that all good things take time and there are no shortcuts.

You have to be patient and it might be years before you see results. I didn’t score that goal in the 2010 FIFA World Cup by waking up one day and wishing it would happen, similarly I’m still one of the best soccer players because I continue to persevere.

Tracy Lee Nicol
Tracy-Lee Nicol is an experienced business writer and magazine editor. She was awarded a Masters degree with distinction from Rhodes university in 2010, and in the time since has honed her business acumen and writing skills profiling some of South Africa's most successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, franchisees and franchisors.Find her on Google+.