Guest blogger, Lesego Masethe, shares the story of the second-place winner in this year’s Ranyaka Building Business competition held in Mamelodi, Tshwane.

While there is no clear definition for the term entrepreneurial ecosystem builder, what is common in all its varied definitions is that it creates a new model for economic development and collaboration, which is exactly what Nkululeko Nkwanyama’s business, HANA (Pty) Ltd, is all about.

Nkululeko is what entrepreneurs call an ‘idea hub’ – a creative person who can generate ideas and opportunities from any situation. He started his business in 2015 in Mamelodi West, Pretoria, where he grew up. It is a multidisciplinary service provider that focuses primarily on financial services, events and project management. “The business was established after having seen a need to address the social burning outcry of unemployment, poverty and access to information. It was founded on the principle of addressing inequality and promoting employee participation in the process of taking advantage of the Township Economy thereby realizing true change for all,” he says.

A lyrical accountant

Nkululeko graduated as an accountant, so it was a surprise for many when he wanted to pursue a career as a hip-hop artist. “I love numbers, don’t get me wrong, but I’m a creative spirit that needed a platform to release my creativity. Trying to break into the music industry proved to be difficult. No one wanted to give me a chance, so I established my record label where I could produce my music and invite other struggling local artists in my community to come and record their songs too. Out of that, I saw an opportunity to create an entertainment company. I turned my passion into a business,” he added.

Nkululeko uses his accounting qualification to run his business and assists start-up businesses to understand and manage their finances. He has created an extensive network of service providers that are situated in and around Mamelodi, specialising in various products and services. His reason for creating this database he says “is to know who is doing what, to seek and build good relationships and assist each other in growing township economy”. He is using a system-wide approach to helping and supporting entrepreneurs, thinking about the impact of their work on the entire network of people, programmes and resources in the community — looking at the gaps and creating new resources to fill those gaps.

The challenges

Nkululeko experienced numerous challenges when he first started. Apart from the basic business training he received from one of SEDA’s entrepreneurial programmes, he had no extensive knowledge about running a business. “I had no access to information on how to put together my business model or how to implement it. I didn’t know where or how to start sourcing in clients, ” he says.

“What this journey has taught me, is to not allow a few failed trials to discourage you from trying again.” He says the trick is to remain humble, positive, persist and put God first.

The winning idea

Part of the organisation’s short-term goals, Nkululeko says, is to incorporate and roll-out phase one of the oil initiatives he started recently. He identified the lack of information about the safe and responsible disposal, storage and transportation of used lubricating oil and related waste as a problem in his community.

In addition to the obvious negative impact on the environment, the dumping of oil creates unattractive spaces – and it has been proven that the physical appearance of a neighbourhood has a direct influence on community morale, a sense of pride in one’s space and even, the levels of crime in an area.

Nkululeko’s plan of action proposed a skills development programme which would also tackle unemployment and poverty in the area; a multi-purpose registered workshop and the development of local mechanics as Small, Micro and Medium Enterprises (SMMEs).

His income generation plan included aspects such as the servicing and repair of vehicles by backyard mechanics, the supply and sale of used lubricating oil and income-generating services provided by the workshop.

On the Covid-19 pandemic

Nkululeko’s business was hit hard by the pandemic. “We had no reserves and no source of revenue because most of our clients were not operating and some segments like events were fully prohibited. Even now as we speak that industry is not fully opened, ” he explains.

“We had to restructure everything: From how we operate in terms of marketing to how we source new clients and ensure we maintain the relationship,” he says.

“The Ranyaka Building Business Programme provided me with a much greater and more complex overview of the business space,” says Nkululeko. Through the help of mentors, they were able to understand how to test whether or not a business idea was feasible. He learned the basic principles of how to draw up business plans for different instances and phases of the business where funding is needed to expand.

To aspiring entrepreneurs

“I have hope for the future of South Africa because through such programme rolled out by Ranyaka and the empowerment of entrepreneurs, I have no doubt we will produce fruitful and sustainable business ventures that will see growth in community engagement and the South African Economy thrive to greater heights,” Nkululeko says. Lastly, “Stay positive and humble. Don’t allow fear to deprive you of leading the life you destined for.”