Run on numbers: Why look for a job? Create your own

South Africa needs more entrepreneurs to tackle unemployment. Picture: Independent Media.

South Africa needs more entrepreneurs to tackle unemployment. Picture: Independent Media.

Published Nov 12, 2023


Many moons ago, when I went to university to study economics, I learned that everything on earth is scarce. Capital was scarce, commodities were scarce, labour was scarce, and so were machines, tools, and knowledge.

I want my money back. An abundance mindset is characterised by the belief that there are many opportunities, resources, and possibilities available. People with an abundance mindset tend to focus on potential growth, collaboration, and a positive outlook on the future. This mindset encourages a willingness to share knowledge and help others.

1. As an entrepreneur, you have two predominant mindsets competing for your attention: scarcity and abundance. To put it simply, a scarcity mindset leaves you feeling overwhelmed, depressed, and paralysed. An abundance mindset leaves you feeling excited, motivated, and ready for action. South Africa needs to embrace an abundance mindset, this will change blackouts to independent power-produced electricity and many other benefits.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, an entrepreneur is a person who attempts to make a profit by starting a company or by operating alone in the business world, especially when it involves taking risks:

Entrepreneurship is not just about owning a business but about developing a suite of practical skills that can help people set and achieve goals, overcome and learn from setbacks, and maximise opportunities, throughout their lives.

2. For countries to spread prosperity to citizens, governments must find industries where they can compete globally in the digital age. These countries are seen as innovative with enterprising citizens. According to the website, The United States of America is the top-rated country regarding entrepreneurial matters, they are awarded a score of 100 on their scale. Second is Germany followed by Japan, the United Kingdom, and Canada in fifth place with a score of 84,2. South Africa is in position 44 regarding entrepreneurship with an extremely low score of 10,9.

This is their weighting to determine their overall score of a country this score: “Entrepreneurship (14.13%): connected to the rest of the world, educated population, entrepreneurial, innovative, provides easy access to capital, skilled labour force, technological expertise, transparent business practices, well-developed infrastructure, well-developed digital infrastructure, well-developed legal framework. South Africa’s overall score of 46 out of 85 places us more or less in the middle range.

3. The wealthiest entrepreneurs in the country that we know of include Johann Rupert, Nicky Oppenheimer, Christoffel Wiese, Patrice Motsepe, Koos Bekker, and Michiel Le Roux. They are South African-born citizens who have become synonymous with entrepreneurship. Here are well-known South African-born billionaires:

1. Elon Musk: Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, was born in Pretoria, South Africa. He is known for his pioneering work in the electric car and space exploration industries.

2. Nicky Oppenheimer: Nicky Oppenheimer is a South African billionaire who inherited his family's diamond mining business, De Beers. He has also been involved in various philanthropic efforts.

3. Johann Rupert: Johann Rupert is the chairperson of Richemont, a luxury goods company known for brands like Cartier and Montblanc. He is one of the wealthiest individuals in South Africa.

4. Koos Bekker: Koos Bekker is a South African businessperson known for his role in transforming Naspers, a media and internet group, into a global tech giant.

There are a host of names such as Sir Donald Gordan, Laurie Dippenaar, Allan Grey, Raymond Ackerman, Douw Steyn, and many others. Lest we forget erstwhile Markus Jooste. Rodney Sacks and Hilton Schlosberg are the founders of Monster drinks, both emigrated to the US in the 1980s and are now billionaires. Mark Shuttleworth founded Thawte Consulting, a company that specialises in digital certificates and internet security. In December 1999, Shuttleworth sold Thawte to VeriSign, earning him R3.5 billion.

Not all entrepreneurs become billionaires, but they shoot out the lights in comparison to where they once were. Here are some words of wisdom from entrepreneurs that made it.

Entrepreneur Rob Stokes said: “Sometimes you've just got to wing it (and wait a long time) before your ship comes in”. George Sombonos of Chicken Licken fame: "Without my father's knowledge, I swapped the existing chicken coating for an untested recipe I bought in the US for $1,000. Sales increased, and turnover shot up to over R200 000 a month. That was a significant deal in the 1980s“.

Albe Geldenhuys launched USN sports supplements in 1999. This is how he went about his start-up business. “I did not concentrate on business plans or marketing strategies – I focused on selling. I targeted anyone, I had no strategy beyond just sell, sell, sell."

Like Big Blue Founders, James Robertson, and Philip Cronje, many successful entrepreneurs are sceptical of predictive information, which means they do not decide upfront if an idea will work or not. They launched Big Blue from a flea market, and today, they have a turnover of R100 million.

NetFlorist, SA's largest online gifting company, was launched by Ryan Bacher, Lawrence Brick, and Jonathan Hackner, on Valentine's Day in 1999. They stated: “Notice the difference between what happens when a man says to himself, I have failed three times, and what happens when he says, I am a failure.”

Lebo Gunguluza is the founder and group chairman at GEM Group, a turnaround strategist, motivational speaker, and Dragon on SA's Dragon's Den. When he arrived in Durban in 1990, he had R60 to his name. At 26 he bootstrapped his first company, Gunguluza Entertainment. “I spent my first million in one year. By the end of 1999, I was flat broke. My car was repossessed, and I was blacklisted.

“I made up my mind that whatever I went into next, it would be in a space that pays well and has structure. I would also continuously reinvest in the business, watch my cash flow, and do business only with scrupulous clients who paid on time.”

Another motivating story with an important lesson to young entrepreneurs is that of Fats Lazarides who founded Ocean Basket in 1995 with R800. Today, the nationwide brand has system-wide sales of over R1 billion. “We convinced all of our suppliers to let us pay them with post-dated cheques, and then we worked like hell to make enough money that month to ensure they didn't bounce.”

An inspiring story is that of Irfan Pardesi and Hina Kassam, who launched ACM Gold in 2005. The company has a current valuation of R3 billion. Their advice is: “Focus on what you know best. You don't need to be a master of everything, you just need to know a lot about one thing.”

Everyone is amazed at how McDonald's operates - utilising a small but prominently located property. And they have a winning recipe. “There's a process for how you walk into my factory – and if you walk in the wrong way, I'm going to (figuratively) slap you for it, because that system is there for a reason. It has its foundation in the mistakes that we've made and the solutions we've found to challenges,” said Wally Fry, chairman and co Founder of Fry Family Foods.

4. Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFT) produced a white paper and stated the following: “Increasingly, the global economy demands that young people enter the workforce not only with a college degree but also with a set of transferrable, entrepreneurial skills and attitudes that can help them succeed in almost any job or industry. This includes the ability to take initiative and think on your feet, to critically solve problems, and to communicate effectively.”

The Table below indicates the areas for people to focus on in order to develop an entrepreneurial mindset.

5. An entrepreneur is not someone who believes that life is a zero-sum game. If someone else does well, it must be at the expense of everyone else who is doing poorly. As I was taught at university, the “language of scarcity” is found in every industry and profession in the world economy. It includes words like costs, transactions, profession, clients, products/services, employees, status, security, and lifestyle.

On the other hand, abundance mindsets are grateful, creative, and cooperative. The reality is that there are free online learning courses on almost any topic nowadays. There are free software products and there are even “free” as a business model. Things are given for free to customers in exchange for information.

South Africa needs more entrepreneurs to tackle unemployment. We need to bring the abundance mindset to every boy and girl and to all adults, whether they have existing jobs or not.