The unfolding story of Gugu Makhubu

“I knew this is who I was going to become. This is me. I love helping people. I want people to become better versions of themselves. I want them to reach greater heights, do more and be more,” says Gugu Makhubu, Founder of Vuguma Training and Services (PTY) Ltd.

Generally known as a business that offers social support and resources for vulnerable individuals, promoting public sensitivity to social justice issues, Vuguma has expanded itself to be much more than this and we have had the privilege to gain some insight into the workings of this multi-layered business and the engrossing brains behind it.

Based in Mahube Valley east of Mamelodi, Vuguma has set itself apart from its competitors by offering multiple services that cater to the needs of the community. “We are an independent professional company that offers accredited social work training and services at an affordable rate. I saw the gaps and wanted to crack through them and establish myself by offering first skills development of choice to our clients, by becoming the leading supply company on all corporate and non-corporate levels. We administer effective learning programmes that enhance employment opportunities and business prosperity and, in turn, individuals,” Gugu says proudly.

Living my dream
Most people grow up wanting to be one thing, but end up pursuing something completely different as adults. This has not been the case for Gugu, who says that she is doing exactly what she has always wanted to do.

“One of the things that inspires me the most is seeing my neighbour’s new outlook on life after interacting with me. She now owns a salon. I took her in, walked with her through our skills training and personal development programme and seeing her thrive is a beautiful experience,” Gugu continues to reflect with awe.

Turning lemons into lemonade
Life has not always been kind to Gugu. She was raised by a single mother and witnessed the struggles her mother endured in raising young children on her own. “It was tough, but my mother made sure that we were fed and had everything we needed,” says Gugu.

“My childhood taught me independence. I sold sweets while I was in school and after I matriculated, I started a small business, making sandwiches and chips, so I’d say I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit.”

Life dealt Gugu a devastating blow when her mother passed away unexpectedly in 2013. With no parents, she had to find ways to fulfil her dreams of going to university. “I worked odd jobs here and there just so I could save up money to go to school. I hate loans, so I was determined to do this by myself. Today I am happy to say that, through my hard work, I was able to pay for my entire degree,” she says.

Things fall apart
While Gugu has successfully established a winning formula for her business, growth and expansion have been challenging and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have presented unwelcomed setbacks. “When 2020 started, I had direction, I had a planned employee wellness training programme that I had presented to one of the government departments. They liked it and wanted to look further into it, but when Covid-19 hit in March, everything fell apart. Everything stopped. Since then, there has not been any communication from their side. They are no longer interested,” Gugu explains.

Saving grace
Gugu credits her business well-being to the Ranyaka team, who helped her through the stress of restructuring and understanding the building blocks of what it takes to run a successful business. “I would call and text in the middle of the night if I had questions and in the morning I would wake up to find answers, they had replied. I’m grateful to my mentors and for the great relationship we have built,” says Gugu.

Two things stood out for Gugu during the training programme at Ranyaka. Firstly, she learned how to strategize and source new clients. “My mentor advised me to start looking into doing business with crèches and schools, which is something I never thought about before,” she says.

Secondly, she learned how to monitor her finances. “One of my weaknesses as an entrepreneur is monitoring my finances,” says Gugu as she cracks a nervous laugh. “My mentor taught me about a new spreadsheet I could use and suggested I get a bookkeeper to manage my finances, which I did.”

Looking into the future
Today Gugu is optimistic about the future. Her short-term goals include conducting training and workshops on HIV which are set to begin in May 2021. She is currently running a computer training programme out of her garage, but hopes to find a bigger space to accommodate everyone.

“Some of my long-term goals are to get accredited by MI SETA and to extend training to Auxiliary social work,” she says.

And to upcoming entrepreneurs?
“Start something, even if it’s small like selling sweets, anything, just start. Secondly, do not think that you are going to be a millionaire in 3 months or 1 year.It doesn’t work like that. Be smart.”