- Player: Tsepiso Makhubedu
- Company: Tsepiso Makhubedu
- Established: 2010
- Contact: +27 (0)79 472 9022
- Visit: tsepisomakhubedu.com
When Tsepiso Makhubedu entered the second season of entrepreneurial reality show The Big Break Legacy, she had her eye on the prize – R5 million would help her and then business partner Comfort Dhlamini to launch their educational publishing business.
At the age of 19, the self-starter, a former head girl of Lowveld High in Nelspruit, made it to the finale and took second place, giving older and more experienced contestants a run for their money. She was also the first female and youngest person in the history of the show to make it that far.
Moreover, ‘winning’ became a rather relative term in this particular case. True, Makhubedu hadn’t walked away from the show with the overall prize, but the experience had been invaluable.
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Some very big business lessons had been squeezed into a very short amount of time. Big Break really had turned out to be her ‘big break’. So what did she learn?
Learn from your mistakes
Makhubedu started her first business at the age of 12. Through NelCity Events, an events management company, she and her small team became sought-after party planners in KaNyamazane Village.
“We closed the business in our final year of high school because we had to prepare for exams. Being a contestant on the show made me realise how important early financial literacy is. We had made a lot of money as teenagers, but we had not invested any of it back into the business. I had definitely learnt from that mistake. Always plough cash back into your start-up.”
All business is show business
Because it’s so difficult to get finance, entrepreneurs often enter competitions like Big Break to win money, but participating in the show became a real marketing opportunity for Makhubedu.
“I spent time with people like Wendy Luhabe, Lebo Gunguluza and Ezra Ndwandwe. How you carry yourself and prove that you are an entrepreneur can give you an enormous amount of credibility, particularly if you are young and inexperienced.”
However, you don’t have to enter TV shows to access experienced entrepreneurs. There are other competitions, associations and networks that allow serious entrepreneurs to interact with industry stalwarts.
It’s all about customers
Makhubedu launched her second business, Royal-T Books in 2012. By intensively seeking investors for the business, she did not spend enough time focusing on customers and their needs.
“Participating in the show made me realise that customers are key. There was a big gap in the market for our product, but we had to sell to make the business idea work. You need to engage with your customers and show them that you are offering a specific solution to their problems. Customers won’t come to you if they don’t know about you.”
Listen to the market
Makhubedu took every opportunity to improve Royal-T Books’ offering to the market.
“When we started the business, we were going to sell printed books. Despite living in the digital age, we were set on physical textbooks. But when we realised the world had moved on, that changed everything. We started developing e-books, and corporates approached us to develop financial literacy materials for adult consumers, too.”
At the end of March 2015, Makhubedu successfully exited Royal-T Books. Having invested R10 000, she left with R4,2 million and more than 100 000 e-books sold.
Know your own value
People do business with people, not companies, she says. “To find investors who believe in your product, you need to be a person in whom others have confidence. When the show came to an end, I applied what I had learnt to launch a public speaking career at 20. I know my value, and I believe that if you want something from the world you have to ask for it. I set my fee at R20 000 per speaking engagement, and it worked.”
Today she has a thriving career as a keynote speaker on entrepreneurship and leadership.
Education is crucial
A BCom dropout, Makhubedu (who achieved six distinctions in matric) is nonetheless a believer in the value of education.
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“I left varsity because dreaming of being an audit manager was not enough of a goal for me. But education has served its purpose in my life. It taught me the importance of learning, and I have been teaching myself how to be an entrepreneur ever since.”