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Neftaly Malatjie Of The Southern Africa Youth Project On Taking Risks

For Neftaly Malatjie of the Southern Africa Youth Project entrepreneurial zeal and a desire for change paves the way for empowerment.

Monique Verduyn




Vital Stats

Neftaly Malatjie is impatient. His frustration is rooted in the fact that so many young South Africans struggle to break into the job market because they don’t have the right formal qualifications, or have not had the right breaks. It’s that impatience for change that has kept things moving forward for this young entrepreneur.

In 2005, aged 14, Malatjie started Diepsloot Youth Projects, now the Southern Africa Youth Project, using money he had saved from part-time work.

Based in the densely populated, impoverished township of Diepsloot, the project brings hope to young people in the community through entrepreneurship training, sewing and interior design workshops, workplace skills development and career counselling, and computer training.

The aim is to help at-risk youth to become responsible citizens, by providing them with information, support and skills that lead to their empowerment, and employment.

Malatjie says he made many mistakes in the beginning, which is understandable considering his tender age and lack of experience. But commitment and the belief of his community kept him going.

Related: 10 Dynamic Black Entrepreneurs

Spend conservatively

“Early on, I secured funding from a large corporate, and without thinking I spent the entire annual budget in a week,” he recalls.

“I had signed a contract and eventually got into personal debt to cover the expenses for the rest of that year.”

That happens when enthusiasm overrides pragmatism. “There were so many problems to be addressed, that I wanted to fix them all at once Lack of focus almost destroyed my dream. Whatever you set out to do, first allocate your budget and resources, especially with donor funds.”

Your title doesn’t matter


“Like many new entrepreneurs, I gave myself the title of CEO,” Malatjie says. “I should have waited until the enterprise had achieved some credibility. It’s better to use a title that tells people what you do.”

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big, but most people will be more interested in your track record and achievements than your title.

Admin is your friend

Malatjie has learnt to love documentation. “Admin needs to be your favourite thing when you set up a social business. You need evidence of everything you do and it’s important to ensure compliance and registration with all the appropriate regulatory agencies.

Review and adapt

When the project was still in its infancy, Malatjie was aiming to reach around 2 000 youths per year. He soon felt that he was floundering because the target could not be achieved. He enlisted the help of a board of directors who offer expertise from different industry sectors.

Related: Musician Concord Nkabinde On Treating Music Like A Business

“Develop a strategy, determine how often you need to review it, and do it. In our reviews, we measure what we have achieved against our goals to determine where we need to improve. We set targets for fundraising, decide on beneficiary goals and ensure that we maintain a narrow focus. Setting targets is critical. Determining what you will do and why is important, because it’s not about numbers, but impact. Today we place 70% of the youths we reach into jobs by the time they exit our programmes.”

As Malatjie’s primary purpose is to grow the impact of the organisation, he and his team are looking at franchising and partnerships to enable national reach and deeper impact.

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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Watch List: 50 Top SA Black Entrepreneurs To Watch

South Africa needs more entrepreneurs to build businesses that can make a positive impact on the economy. These up-and-coming black entrepreneurs are showing how it can be done.

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