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The beauty of South Africa

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My name is Liziwe Ndalana, I’m a writer and I’m passionate about personal development. The aim of this blog is to showcase the beauty of my country, South Africa.

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Living within your means as an entrepreneur

I quit my job at the end of March 2018, without a plan or savings. Although the decision came promptly, the build up towards it has been steady. For two years I’ve been feeling a deep craving for ‘more’. Thanks to my stress levels and a visit to the doctor twice in six months, that gave me the reason to take the plunge.

While it’s not advisable to quit your job without a solid savings plan, experts recommend up to six month’s worth of income saved up, it is important to listen to your gut. Your body will also give you signs that it’s time, like it did in my case. Quitting without savings is extremely difficult and sometimes downright stupid. This means there has to be a way for you to survive. These few factors helped me to survive the transition.

The first factor is that I do not have children, so no worry for school fees, uniform, medical aid and other related costs which come with having children. The second point is that I live at home, this reduced the pressure for rent. I made this decision when I was still working and hadn’t even thought about quitting my job, or starting a business. I don’t need to worry about rent; I only need to make sure I have electricity. Initially, I managed this fine as I still had money from my salary payout. Later on when I ran out of the little money I had, the business helped me. I run a laundry business and it consumes electricity, but I still contribute when I have money; not relying on the business.

The third point is to make sure you do not have debt. Thank God that I had sensibility to eliminate debt in my life completely, in 2014. This came through my work as a personal finance intern at a local newspaper. Learning and writing about credit and debt motivated me to never waste my money through buying things on credit. This education saved me a big deal. It even prevented me from buying a car on credit, well, I don’t have a car.

The fourth factor is that I opened an investment account with Momentum, and authorised them to debit R500 monthly from my account as soon as my salary comes in. I took this investment in order to save for my holidays. When I stopped working and couldn’t continue with my contribution, I left the money with Momentum. I only took a large portion of that money to invest in the business and left some to keep the account open, so it can resume once I have regular income again. Even now, that small portion that was left is still loitering in that account, waiting for the worst of rainy days. I’ve been tempted a number of times to withdraw it, but I haven’t. It gives me peace of mind to know that some money is locked up somewhere as small as it is.

This last point has been my saving grace. Leveraging my writing skills to freelance has helped a great deal. In my first month after leaving employment, I wrote an article for my former employer. I also got myself a writing gig. This is a BIG DEAL. I also kept my online profile alive, keeping my name top mind. This has not only kept name alive, but has led to more writing opportunities. However, I’ve done this prior to quitting my job. I worked hard at using my social media platforms to establish myself as an authority in my field of writing, entrepreneurship.

Lastly, work on your LinkedIn for more opportunities that will bring you work on your area of expertise. This will alleviate the stress which comes from the volatility of running a business.

Things I learned from running a business

I know the title said “things I learned”, but I want to share one key element that I learned about myself from running my own business. One of these things was that I’m bad with money, I mean really bad. I know that I’ve always been scared of running out of my money. Having limited income from my writing on the side, while I have someone I need to pay was a no brainer for me. I quickly learned that I’m bad at financial management. Now that I’m aware, I’m no longer a slave to this bad trait.

I also learnt to openly acknowledge that I don’t know something. This is very hard for me. As a result of this, I’ve always been hard on myself, giving myself limited opportunities to fail. If you knew me personally, you’d know I’m that “strong friend” who is always ready to listen, but not only that, but to offer meaningful advice with a dose of empathy. Speaking of empathy, I learned to cut myself some slack. Meaning, I learnt to be more kinder to myself.

This is probably the biggie: I discovered that love is all around if you look hard enough. I’ve learnt to be self-sufficient early on in life to avoid ‘burdening’ people. Running my business with no prior knowledge or experience forced me to give up this trait. Well, not completely, but I’m learning to ask for help and people are too generous with their time, knowledge and skills. Running my own business also taught me to let go of control as a business is unpredictable and beyond my control. Now, I pray, believe and wait and let go. I’m a better human being except for irritability here an there, which I think is normal.

A life of courage

When I started writing about entrepreneurship four and a half years ago, never in a million years did I envisage myself running my own business. I used to sit at my desk, listening to this amazing entrepreneur on the phone tell his or her story of entrepreneurship, passion so evident in his or her voice. I remember that I used to be in awe at the sheer courage to start something with no guarantee of success or reward.

Later, it became a red couch, and again I saw the eyes sparkle as these entrepreneurs told the same story of ‘madness’, which is called entrepreneurship. I used to think, while keeping my professional posture infront of a camera, “wow, you’re brave!”, and at times, it was, “you must be crazy”. Now I’m the crazy one. This is after deciding to start my laundry business, Express Laundry, which is now eight months old. We’ve done more than 100 loads of washing and we’re still going!

Business in your pocket

 

 

I recently attended a two-day workshop hosted by Silulo Ulutho Technologies on how to optimise your smartphone for business. At first I thought, well I’m techno-savvy and I like to think of myself as a social media maven, since I live and breathe Twitter. Not only that, but I worked in that space as a professional, so what more can I learn now? I’m always eager to learn new things, but this was different. I mean, I can’t live without my smartphone; I’m the typical example of this generation which is totally dependant on their smartphone. If by accident, I forgot my smartphone at home, which rarely happens, I would go nuts the whole day. So, I thought I’d go to the workshop anyway, mainly to meet new people and network, something I’m always keen on doing. The second reason was because I run a laundry business and my business services a market that is not fully integrated onto the online space. I wanted to learn how I can use technology to reach my market.

As a business owner, I learnt about the power of the device I carry daily in my hand. The facilitator Nhlanhla Nhlapho taught us how to use our smartphones from scheduling appointments, which I’ve always done (eye-roll), to scanning documents and creating spread sheets, to help us manage business finances better. He also showed us how to use WhatsApp Business to reach clients or customers the same way we would use email to communicate with them. It was such an eye opener and it certainly removed any arrogance I had before attending the workshop.

The lesson was: I can never know enough. There’s always something new to learn. Now I see my smartphone as a business tool; it’s no longer just a cool device I use to communicate with both friends and the world through social media. I look forward to more of these lessons.

PS: I did meet new and interesting people though. The remaining challenging is to make these contacts worth my while. After all, that’s what networking is about, right? How do you benefit from your smartphone apart from just communicating with it? Share your views.

 

 

Express Laundry

Express Laundry is my new baby.  By new baby I mean business. I officially launched on May 2, also known as May Day in South Africa, which marks the official Workers Day public holiday. Four days ago, the business turned four months old. FOUR MONTHS OLD! Milestones, yay! I’m celebrating the small wins, the baby steps in this case. This is truly a baby for me. Look at how I’m counting months, I even remember the birth date.

Laundry machine - Unsplash

The idea started in October 2017. I guess I was being my bougie self, I was looking for a laundry in my neighborhood.  I was sure I would find one. I went to look at the places where I knew there would likely be one, but I couldn’t find one. I thought, “you know what, I”ll start one”. I was joking as I had no time or appetite to run a business. Funny enough though, I went on an overdrive to think of a name for my laundry; I designed a flier and suddenly, I was excited at the prospect of running my own business. In truth though, I was more excited at the thought of being “the founder of Express Laundry” as I already came with the name for the business. I did not foresee myself doing any laundry in my mind’s eye. The only thing that was top mind was my fancy flier, with its bright colours. I never even envisaged myself resigning from job, which I was extremely passionate about.

In January 2018 I head to Durban for a blissful 10 days on holiday. This has become my practice that, while people are on a frenzy, going on holidays; shopping, I’m working so come January I can have time off without the busyness of the festive shopping. This year is no different. After breathing a sigh of relief that my family has gone back to their respective places of dwelling, I can finally breathe in the space I share with my nephew for the past two years (insert a roll eyes emoji here). I get to Durban and I have a great time there. I’m back at work. I’ts as busy and stressful as usual. That’s when I realise something is not right. I just from a holiday. Usually I would be excited because my job is exciting as much as it is stressful. The cherry on top is the fact that I’m tired after being on holiday. I dismiss the feeling and blame on the fact that I was working throughout December, adding the stress of having family around.

The feeling doesn’t go away or subside. Instead I’m growing resentful of my surroundings. I’m easily irritated, but more importantly, the life in my eyes is not there. The only things I see when I take a quick glance, in a mirror is blood. This glancing on the mirror has become a daily practice. Every time I got to the bathroom at work, I mostly go there just so I can look at my bloodshot eyes. So it is to console myself that my eyes look normal and at times, it is to confirm that, “yes something is wrong with my eyes”. This is on days when I volunteer to put my head out of the sand and look at my world with honesty. It doesn’t take me long to be sent to the doctor’s chambers because I have this strange pain in where I suspect to be my kidneys. I quickly realise it’s not the first time I’ve had this pain. It’s very subtle. It comes and goes without making so much so much noise. But it feels familiar.

Not so long ago, less than a month ago, I was in the same doctor’s chambers for this familiar pain. The doctor examined me, but couldn’t find anything wrong with my body, but she sent me to go take a walk at the beach after I broke down while she was feeling my pulse. Again, this day the young blond doctor tells me I can either go back to the office to work or I can go home. I quickly notice a pattern: I take the option of going home, but instead of going home; I go shopping and then head to the Waterfront. I also noticed that when I got back to the office no one noticed that I wasn’t my bubbly self as I had just came back from the doctor’s office. I also notice no one said “good bye” as I grabbed my bag, pretending to be going home. I had sent my editor an email, informing her of my emergency to go see a doctor after the ladies at the pharmacy told me they couldn’t help, but I’d rather go see a doctor who will properly examine me. As I walk back into my desk, she’s buried in her laptop screen and others’ faces are hidden behind their computer screens, a norm in here. No one lifts up their head, no wonder they didn’t notice lifelessness in my hollow eyes and my almost swollen face. It quickly dawns me that no one knew I went to see a doctor even though I did say I was going to the pharmacy where it all started.

I leave the office. My spirit is still not revived at the thought being at the mall while others are at work. The prospect of going straight home is also not appealing as that means I would have to face myself. Shopping and pretending to be happy at the mall is way easier.

What happened the following weeks is a roller-coaster of emotions until I realised I was at risk of losing my sanity. I craft a plan: I’m going to resign. Suddenly, I’m filled with joy I’ve never known. I don’t have a great appetite for risk. In fact, I usually play it safe. As someone who loves hard, I usually wait until I’m sure my heart will be totally safe before I jump in, which never happens as there are no guarantees that when you open your heart, you’re risking it being broken. I text my three career-focused, confident and successful confidants and I inform them of my decision. The two of them each take an hour long to talk to me on the phone about this BIG decision. They’re rather listneing to me talk them through the decision and the factors that led to it. Now that my decision has been vetoed, I’m at peace that it’s not another form of putting my head in the sand, but that I’m choosing my sanity.

I give it a few days to think it through and I go ahead. On the last day of March I leave everything behind and I don’t look back. I don’t know what I’m going to do next, I’m happy in a way I’ve never been. Two months later, this baby, Express Laundry is born.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Estratweni Mobile foods

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Space and Blacks co-founded Estratweni Mobile Foods in 2016. The duo started their business with R200 capital, which they borrowed from Space’s sister.

The concept came after an idea to start a community development organisation became fraught with internal politics which led to their resignation from the organisation. The initial plan was to start something that will bring income while they worked on the long term organisation, which was to development and uplift the community.

Blacks, together with Space who has a background in food selling, started baking muffins and sold them on the streets, hence the name Estratweni (which means on the street). They moved on from selling muffins and introduced burgers, a completely new concept in the townships. New in the sense that it’s produced in the township.

They now run a food trailer, something they saw in America, which according to Space is not a norm in the townships. Blacks adds that the food they provide is more than just food: “It’s having a chef make food for you. Also, when someone buys a burger, it’s a big deal”. He adds that being able to afford to buy your girlfriend a burger has an effect on one’s self esteem.

“We wanted to bring the food that you see in the CBD to the townships, so that was the whole idea. Also, we wanted to exhibit our culture though food,” says Space.

They had their fare share of challenges of running a business. Blacks recalls a time when there was no money and his wife was six months pregnant at the time. Space was also a bread winner at home, taking care of his mom.

Although they are not where they want to be as yet, the worst is over. They are now seeing the fruits of their labour. They count Red Bull Amaphiko among the clients they’ve recently catered for. Their future plans include opening a restaurant in Phillippi. They want to empower youth in their community and  employ those who were not fortunate enough to complete matric by upakilling them. Their bigger vision is to more food trucks and employ more people. Their main offering beef burger. They realised that many people couldn’t afford a burger and they wanted to bring this delicacy at an affordable price.

They are currently part of the UCT Graduate School of Business incubation programme.

Their advice to those who thinking of starting something,”just start; don’t wait too long”. They’re chefs on the streets, and they mean business.

(Pic: On the left is Blacks and on the right is Space.)

Photographer: Liziwe Ndalana.

 

God’s Army

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If you like cosy, intimate setting with some music playing softly in the background, then God’s Army coffee shop-cum-bookstore in Bree Street, Cape Town is the place for you. From the outside, there’s nothing spectacular about it. In fact, if you’re looking from the outside you can hardly notice it. It’s a small block squeezed between other two small blocks: one is a men’s grooming clinic and the other one looks like a small boutique advertising agenncy.

I went inside and Jared welcomed me with a lazy smile and asked me what I wanted to drink. The place has a warm ambience. There’s a book shelf on the left hand side of the door and you’re immediately glued to the books as you come in if you’re a book lover like myself. On the left hand side is old military attire, adorning the walls. There’s also a military mascot, which I had mistaken for an owner when Jared introduced him as Frank Rogers.

The walls are plattered with military attire all around the room. There’s also a big signage on the walls with red letters, which read Jesus loves people. There’s also a TV screen where gospel music is playing. The place is not busy. When I got in there were no other customers. Soon a gentleman carrying a heavy back pack came in and was chit chatting with both Jared and the lady who makes coffee and delivers pastries with a delightful smile.

Jared told me the concept behind the shop is God’s kingdom. The owner worked in the military previously and had donated all his military attire to the shop.  The target market, according to Jared is anyone who loves good coffee, really. Both Jared and the lady are welcoming and friendly.

I ended up spending an hour, long after I had finished drinking my coffee. I guess I got carried away while listening to my favourite Christian songs. Oh, there’s WiFi too!