Muziwomusa “Muzi” Mthombeni thought he didn’t stand a chance of being awarded a Fellowship in 2009, when he applied as a first-year Accounting Science student at Wits University. “The application process was really demanding and the selection camp was hectic. I really didn’t think I’d make it,” he muses. As if getting the Fellowship wasn’t challenging enough, the 23-year old was exited from the Fellowship in 2010 when he changed his major to Marketing.
However, in the spirit of Courageous Commitment, Mthombeni persevered with his studies and was overjoyed when an opportunity to reapply resulted in a continuation of the Fellowship a year later. Upon graduation from Wits in 2012, he joined a leading HR recruitment company but within six months, the entrepreneurial bug bit. He established MaverickMavenMuse – a personal branding company which now boasts E2, as its latest client. “I just wasn’t cut out for the corporate world. So I called Zimkhitha Peter (the Foundation’s Association Director) to find out about the Fellows-in-Residence programme. I joined the Foundation in September 2013 working on various Association programmes aimed at strengthening the Fellows’ network.”
One of the Fellows who remained engaged in the Association’s programmes was 23-year old Mashokane “Mash” Mahlo who joined Mthombeni as a Fellow-in-Residence in 2014. Mahlo was recognised for epitomising Personal Initiative in a blog last year but experiencing the operational-side of the Foundation, through the Fellow-in-Residence programme, crystallised the extent of the support and investment that is availed to each beneficiary. “It reinstated my passion for the Foundation and I was very excited not only to prove my business offerings but to pay-it forward too, “she says.
Mahlo’s undergraduate degree in Economics from UCT, Honours in Economic Science from Wits and business savvy have been indispensable tools in her founding YEPMedia. The company has positioned itself as the media content provider of choice in entrepreneurship, business lifestyle and professional development for young South Africans aged 18 – 30. YEPMedia is proud of its Afrocentric stance and Mahlo maintains: “It’s quite gloomy that media content is so American. We want to be like American youth because of the content we consume yet we have so much more to offer.”
Mahlo and Mthombeni soon joined forces to create 100-Venture, a programme that accelerates the creation of sustainable, micro-ventures using minimal seed capital. With as little as R100, and through an intense four-week entrepreneurial development programme, individuals are equipped to turn bold ideas into growing ventures. So far, through simple bootstrapping, four 100-Venture entrepreneurs sustain innovative businesses like maternal health education provision and internet café’s in technologically-marginalised communities. “We’ve gained a lot from the Foundation so we want to make entrepreneurship a possibility for others by passing on what we’ve learnt to people who may not be as fortunate as we have been,” says Mthombeni.
Their efforts are in the context of the 2014 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor which found that only 10% of South Africans had entrepreneurial intentions. This level of entrepreneurial intention in South Africa is substantially below the average for sub-Saharan Africa (45%).
As they conclude their Fellows-in-Residence programme in March 2015, Mahlo and Mthombeni advise other Fellows to make the most of their entrepreneurial journeys by taking more risks and not selling themselves short. “As Fellows, we belong to a great Association that we can tap into for every aspect of any business one can think of.”
We thank, congratulate and wish Muzi and Mash the best of luck!