Members of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation share their experiences of running a business when they were either children or students at university and how they are helping their own children run their own businesses. These stories have been shared to spark inspiration among South Africa’s youth and encourage a spirit of entrepreneurship.
2Waheed Adam (51)
An EO member since July 2016 and CEO of Prime Group.
My first entrepreneurial venture happened when I was 9 or ten years old and came from necessity. My dad was supporting two families after he remarried and had a total of 6 children. I decided to support myself as much as I could and started with earning my own pocket money.
I learnt how to make copper-wire beaded bangles that uniquely (at the time) could expand to fit all sizes. I began the venture and mainly sold to the public. A point came when I had retail shops requesting my product, however, the very first one I supplied failed to pay me. It was a small fortune which I lost in terms of materials but learnt the hard lesson and started all over again.
The feeling of earning money, irrespective of how little it may have been, gave me a deep sense of independence and also satisfaction knowing I did not have to burden my father with requests for cash. And that led me to the next phase of running my own business today.
3Mike Scott (35)
An EO member since July 2016 and owner of Nona Creative.
My first ‘business’ was when I was 7 years old. I would load a picnic basket with washing materials, tie it to my skateboard and walk around my suburb washing cars for R2 a pop. I was constantly told how ‘enterprising I was’. These very first steps led me to build Nona Creative and we operate across five continents.
You are never too young or too old to start your own business and the lessons you learn along the way will help make you a better entrepreneur in later life.
4Ian Ashforth (33)
An EO member since June 2015 and CEO of Blend Event Life.
My first foray into entrepreneurship was sales: Anything I could get my hands on I sold. It started with selling the contents of airline hospitality bags which my dad received whenever he travelled business class which was quite often. I also started hustling my mother for old clothes and those went on sale. My best achievement was selling an old turquoise golf bag to someone who was passing by my house – I had no idea what he planned to do with it.
I also sold a lot of fresh produce which I grew in my backyard and cultivated with the help of our family gardener. I had several chilli bushes and I kicked my sister out of her Wendy House to use it as a drying room for the chillies. The fresh produce was sold to people in the neighbourhood.
If you can sell, you can be an entrepreneur. Sometimes it’s not about the product or service you sell. Just so long as people want it and you have it. Or have the ability to convince them they need it.
5Richard Rayne (38)
An EO member since April 2012 and CEO of iLearn.
I was always on the hunt for ways to make money. In high school, I won a prize for the most sales in advertising spots in the annual school magazine and this was the first bite of being an entrepreneur.
Together with a friend, I also created parties at clubs with a well-known DJ and convinced brands to sponsor. Finally, at university, to earn extra money, I sold computer equipment & computer training which turned into what iLearn is today.
Opportunities for businesses are all around us and sometimes it is easy to identify a gap where you can either offer a product or service. It is worthwhile trying out as many ventures as possible while you are young because you never know which one could land and become a long term successful business
6Murray McWilliams (48)
An EO member since July 2013 and owner of Tractor Outdoor.
My wife and I have encouraged my children who are ten and 7 years old to start their own business in order to earn some pocket money. What they do is make kombucha, a fermented health drink made from sweetened tea which is becoming increasingly popular among health conscious consumers. The kombucha is then sold to work colleagues, friends and students of my wife’s yoga practice.
To market the health drink, my 7 year old used it as a value add for people buying school raffle tickets. We made a short video of her explaining what the raffle was about and that for every 3 tickets bought she would give them a bottle of kombucha. This was shared on Whatsapp and she sold the most raffle tickets at her school which resulted in her winning a prize which was her aim for the mini campaign. It was a great marketing experience for her and showed the power of digital marketing. The home-made kombucha my children sell is at a better price compared with the health shops which makes it popular. There is also a great entry into their target market as my wife is a yoga instructor whose students like kombucha.
Combining a trendy product at a competitive price with an effective digital marketing approach can really boost a business. Young people are savvy with the communication tools of today and can use this to power their entrepreneurial ambitions.
My first business was Sinsation Promotions, a club promotions agency, launched when I was 19 and just finished school. With no business experience, my two partners and I assisted a small Claremont Club to increase its patrons from 20 on an average night to over 800 in under 4 weeks.
An important lesson I learned was to have your client and supplier contracts in place from the start. Handshakes are great, but can be quickly forgotten when money changes hands. After a few months, the owner decided he didn’t need us and wanted 100% of the door take. Luckily for us, we were able to assist another club just up the road.
My first Job was a ‘Rugby Ball Boy’. My Dad and I used to go down to Kings Park Rugby Stadium every Saturday. This was an amazing experience, and I only got paid R2.50 per afternoon. To be field side watching rugby tests was something few people get to do. One game I was once day-dreaming and ‘woke up’ to a few massive rugby players bearing down at me screaming for me to pass them the ball so that they could commerce with the game. That incident, many decades ago, ensure that I no longer daydream during business hours.