With many South African youth battling to find employment, a young man from Gugulethu, Siyabonga Mdlankomo, is a shining star and an inspiration to people seeking employment.
At the tender age of 18, the Grade 12 pupil at Premier College, in Athlone, already owns a company and is calling on other young people to follow in his footsteps.
Siyabonga owns an events company called Top Notch, which specialises in catering, decorations and planning events – and he is on a mission to encourage young people in townships to start their own businesses.
He told Vukani he always dreamt of running his own company, adding that the aim of his company is to motivate dream chasers like himself, particularly black youth to never underestimate their abilities and always pursue their dreams in spite of adversity they might encounter.
Siyabonga started his company in October last year when he realised there was a gap in the market for his business. Growing up in a business-orientated family proved to be vital for the young business owner.
“My father was a taxi owner before he died in 2011. My mother also used to run a small catering business. I would often assist her when busy with catering for her clients. It was then that I realised catering and planning events was my passion. I decided to pursue it,” he said.
Asked how he raised the capital to start his business, he said he had used his pocket money and had learned to cut a lot of unnecessary expenditure.
“My mother said if I want to start the businesses, I need to know how to raise money for the businesses. I managed to save about R2 000 to kickstart the business and she only provided guidance. Most importantly, I did intensive research about this business before I finally decided to open it,” he said.
Siyabonga said so far he has organised two small events, with his next event being a graduation ceremony in May.
He said he is thrilled that his business is slowly growing and he aims for it to become a well-known brand in South Africa. But, he says, it breaks his heart when he approaches people for business but is turned away because they think he is still too young to have a business.
Siyabonga urged those who had made it already to advise up and coming business owners, especially youth who come from disadvantaged communities, to give them opportunities to showcase their talents.
He said he aims to register his company to be a BEE compliant business and that one of the challenges he is currently grappling with is balancing his time between his school work, modelling and running his business.
He adds that he is also battling with a shortage of equipment and is forced to rent equipment for his events, which cuts into his profit.
“Young people need to realise that it is never too early or too late to start their businesses. They need to stop looking for hand-outs from the government. And they need to wake up and stop blaming government and use what they have to create a better future for them. I hope to teach young people to be self independent and also I hope to derail them from wrong things through the work of my company.”