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Maponya Mall: Richard Maponya

The name Richard Maponya is synonymous with black business in South Africa. Monique Verduyn met Soweto’s favourite entrepreneur to find out how he achieved his goals.

Monique Verduyn



Richard Maponya of Maponya Mall

As a young person why did you leave teaching to go into business?

I was waiting to take up a teaching post when a friend told me that a retailer in the Joburg CBD was looking for “an educated black man” to look after stock on the floor.

Related: 7 Pieces Of Wise Advice For Start-Up Entrepreneurs From Successful Business Owners

My prospective employer and I hit it off immediately, and the job paid far better than teaching.

What would you say is the most difficult lesson you’ve learnt in business and how have you applied it?

Strength of mind is key. When I came to Soweto it consisted of a few houses.

I watched it grow over the years along with my determination to become a businessperson and an employer. It was a huge challenge as black people were not allowed to become involved in business, but I was lucky enough to be born an entrepreneur.

I saw young white men following in their fathers’ footsteps and running big companies and I thought to myself, if they can do that, so can I. Everything was against me but my determination got me through.

Describe the challenges you faced in building Maponya Mall?

When I found the site 28 years ago, I knew it was perfect. The financial institutions were not keen to give me money as Soweto was risky and I did not have enough collateral.

A series of disappointments followed, but my argument was simple: there were already over 3,5 million people in the area who needed a shopping centre where they could buy everything under one roof. It made such sense to me that I never let go of the idea.

The turning point came when Nelson Mandela was released. I acquired the title deeds for the land and started looking for partners. I approached Investec, but I did not have enough collateral to satisfy its investors.

Related: Karl Westvig On Why Passion And Knowledge Drive Success (Together)

I was however, introduced to Zenprop which was very keen on the deal. We became partners and Investec gave us the funding we needed.

How did you sustain your vision?

I knew that Soweto was ready for a mall and I refused to compromise on quality. What I had in mind was a world class shopping centre; I did not want a budget warehouse. That kept my dream alive.

What do you think the government needs to do to further develop black business?

The government needs to create centres where aspirant young entrepreneurs can receive basic training in business skills. The country also needs access to banks that cater for the previously disadvantaged.

Without money, you can do nothing. You may have dreams, but it will take a long time to achieve them if you do not have access to finance.

In my travels overseas I came across such “risk funds” that were created to provide loans for people who do not have the collateral required by traditional banks.

Related: Rudolf Goosen’s New Book Will Help You To Embrace A Success Mindset

We need to empower black people much faster to alleviate poverty and small businesses are the ones that create jobs.

What is your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?

I appeal to youngsters to be aware that there are no quick fixes or short cuts to making money.

Becoming involved in criminal activities is the worst thing they can do to themselves. They must rather be trained, work hard and empower themselves for the future.

There are opportunities out there like never before and the sky is literally the limit.

Related: 11 Things Very Successful People Do That 99% Of People Don’t

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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Lessons Learnt

#Wealthiest List: 8 Self-Made Millionaires On How They Built Their Wealth

These inspirational self-made millionaires built businesses with nothing less than hard work and sheer determination.

Catherine Bristow



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1. Nick D’Aloisio Wrote a Million Dollar App At Age 15


At the age of 15, Nick D’Aloisio wrote an app while sitting in his parent’s bedroom in the UK. At the age of 17, D’Aloisio sold his app Summly – a mobile news summarisation app to Yahoo for a staggering USD 30 million.

As one of the youngest millionaires, D’Aloisio is also the world’s youngest entrepreneur to be backed by venture capitalists – having secured seed funding from Sir Li Ka-Shing, Hong Kong’s billionaire, as well as raising USD 1.23 million from celebrity investors, including Yoko Ono and Ashton Kutcher.

“The number one thing I did that I think was wise was to get, through some of my advisers, was a Chairman; basically someone who was a very experienced business person, an industry veteran — Bart Swanson, who had been at Amazon and then Badoo. Then, myself and Bart really started finding people and growing the team.”

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Lessons Learnt

7 Cannabis Industry Millionaires Making It Big In The Marijuana Business

These entrepreneurs have capitalised on a new market set to continue to grow rapidly as more countries legalise marijuana across the world.

Catherine Bristow



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1. Brendan Kennedy


Brendan Kennedy worked on job sites as a carpenter to pay his way through university, with his eyes set firmly on becoming an architect, until the allure of Silicon Valley changed the course of his direction. While working at technology start-ups Kennedy began thinking about the possibilities that medical marijuana provided.

“I was really sceptical of medical cannabis,” he says. “It took a year of having conversations with patients and physicians and hearing the same story, repackaged but essentially the same, over and over and over again, where my scepticism eroded and I became a believer.”

In 2013, Kennedy and his partners applied for a licence from Health Canada and launched Lafitte Ventures, which was later renamed Tilray. Today, the company is a global leader in medical cannabis research, cultivation, processing and distribution.

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Lessons Learnt

Scaleup Learnings From Our Top Clients – What The Most Successful Entrepreneurs Do Right

So, how do our successful clients move through these constraints to scaling up? We see four key drivers of success, and they are: people, strategy, flawless execution and finance.

Louw Barnardt




You’re out of your start-up boots, staff is increasing, your client base is growing, revenue is up and you’ve proven your case to the market. Now it’s time to scale up. The challenges of this vital growth phase are different and it’s a time that demands different mindsets and different actions. In a world littered with small business failures, it helps to be well-prepared for scaling up using a proven methodology. At Outsourced CFO, we get an inside look at the success factors of our clients who are mastering the transition.

On the one hand, scaling up is a really exciting phase; this is what moves you into real job creation and making an impactful contribution to economic growth. On the other hand, it is really hard to scale up successfully. We see three major constraints that limit companies’ transition from start-up to scale-up:


The business has to have the leadership that can take it to the next level. When you start scaling up, especially rapidly, the founders can no longer do everything themselves. The team must grow and include new leadership talent that can take charge and execute so that the founders are working on the business instead of in the business.


The processes, procedures, networks, systems and workflows of the business all need to be scalable. This is imperative when it comes to your infrastructure for the financial management of your business. You’re only ready for growth when your infrastructure can seamlessly keep pace.

Market access

Scaling up demands more innovative marketing and storytelling so that you can more easily connect and engage with the new employees, clients, network partners, investors and mentors that need to come along with you on your scale-up journey.

Businesses that build a market conversation and a compelling brand narrative during their start-up phase are better positioned to have this kind of market access when they need to scale up.


It is critical to have the right people on your team. Our successful entrepreneurs have what it takes to attract, inspire and retain top talent. A strong team of smart, ambitious and purpose-driven people who love the company and want to see it succeed contribute greatly to a world class company culture. They are adept at communicating a compelling vision and establishing core values that people can take on. These entrepreneurs are tuned into the aspirations of their people and focus on developing leaders in their teams who can in turn develop more leaders.


It is planning that ensures that the right things are happening at the right times. At successful scale-ups strategies and action plans are devised to ensure that the most important thing always remains the most important thing.

Strategy includes input from all team members and setting of good priorities for the short, medium and long term. Goals are clear and everyone always knows what they are working towards. The needle is continuously moved because 90-day action plans are implemented each quarter to achieve targets and goals that are over and above people doing their daily jobs.

Flawless execution

Top entrepreneurs are not just focused on what operations need to achieve, but how the business operates. They have the right procedures, processes and tools in place so that everyone can deliver along the line on the company’s brand promise. Frequent, quick successive meetings ensure the rapid flow of effective communication. Problems are solved without drama. There is no chaos in the office environment. Everyone is empowered to execute flawlessly to an array of consistently happy clients.


Everyone knows that growth burns cash. A rapidly scaling business faces the challenge of needing a scalable financial infrastructure to keep the company healthy. Our successful entrepreneurs pay close attention to finance as the heartbeat of the business, ensuring that everything else functions. They look at the tech they are using for financial management and for the ways that their financial systems can be automated so that they can be brought rapidly to scale. The capital to grow is another vital finance issue.

The best way to finance a business is through paying clients on the shortest possible cash flow cycle. However, when you are scaling up and making heavier investments in the resources you need for growth, it is likely that you will need a workable plan for raising capital. Our scale-up clients know the value of accessing innovative financial management that provides high level services to drive their business growth.

Navigating the scale-up journey of a growing private company is one of the hardest but most rewarding of careers to pursue. Having people in your corner who have been through this journey before helps take a lot of pain out of the process. No growth journey looks the same, but there are tried and tested methods that will – if applied diligently – lead to definite success. Happy scaling!

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