Many of us dream of leaving the 9 to 5 life to become our own bosses as successful entrepreneurs. Not many of us are bold and courageous enough to leave a stable income and put our faith in ourselves and our business idea. What we can be sure of is that becoming an entrepreneur is not as quick and simple as handing in your resignation letter. Often, you’ll have to bear the brunt of owning your own business with sleepless nights, tight budgets until you make a profit, and doing the job of several people until you rent an office space and hire a team. To find out more about being your own boss, we spoke to the founder of The Light Candles, Makutu Tshivula, about his journey into entrepreneurship and the lessons learned along the way.
Getting to know Makutu Tshivula
Tell us a bit about your background.
I’m Makatu Tshivhula, born and bred in Soweto. I am a psychology graduate, graduating in 2019. I was unemployed for a year after graduation, and I decided to start my own business and not wait for a job to come.
Venturing into entrepreneurship
What made you decide to go into entrepreneurship?
Unemployment was what pushed me into becoming an entrepreneur. I decided to get into the Candle Industry because there’s a gap in the market that convinced me to actually go for it and be an entrepreneur.
Where did the idea of running your own business come from?
From my parents. Since I was young, they have always sold various things all their life, from fruits and vegetables to clothes to support us and put food on the table.
How would you define entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship for me is identifying a gap in the market and having the belief in yourself and faith in God that you could become successful from that gap in the market that you are trying to close.
When you started on this journey, what was your vision and mission?
My vision was to become the biggest candle-manufacturing company in the continent of Africa. The mission was to execute this by having the best candles ever and providing the best service to all my clients, regardless of where they are on the continent.
What drives you?
God. My parents and self-belief.
Skills and qualities that every entrepreneur should have
What essential skills should every entrepreneur have for success?
Persistence, salesmanship and patience, but overall, the spirit of not giving up, especially at times when things aren’t looking up.
What qualities do you need to succeed?
There’s a lot because there are many layers to being an entrepreneur. But for me, hard work, faith and consistency.
The realities of entrepreneurship
What’s the hardest about being an entrepreneur?
The stress and pressure of it. Everything falls on you. The stress of having to worry about every important decision you need to make.
Have you experienced any failures or setbacks as an entrepreneur and what lessons did you learn from that experience?
Yes, I have, I learnt that I need to do more research before taking decisions on anything that has to do with the business.
Is there anything you wish you could have done differently when you started?
No, I believe everything I’ve done needs to be done to get me to where I am today. Everything I’ve gone through; I see as a lesson.
How do you plan and prepare for your future in an unstable economic climate?
By being consistent with the work that I do. My products and services with customers, doing the daily work and having faith that God didn’t bring me this far just to leave me where I am.
What does success look like to you?
Having the ability to do whatever you want, whenever you want to, being content with what you have and knowing that there’s more to come.
What was the most difficult part of making the transition to becoming an entrepreneur?
Having the discipline to do work. When you’re running your own business and you realise it all depends on you and especially because you are not reporting to anyone, it’s easy to procrastinate a lot. The danger with that is that it becomes hard to catch up.
A day in the life of an entrepreneur
What does a typical day in your life look like?
Gym in the morning. Then I head to the shop – either to manufacture or do some admin work. And then I dedicate time to finding ways to improve sales.
Is there such a thing as a work-life balance for an entrepreneur?
It depends on what stage of entrepreneurship you’re on. In the beginning stages of the business, there is no such. But as the business grows, you learn to put systems in place that will help you balance work and life.
What are some of the daily habits you do that contribute to your success?
I start every day by praying. To keep going, I keep envisioning things that seem impossible in the beginning.
What’s the biggest sacrifice you’ve had to make, and would you make it again if necessary?
Letting go of some habits such as hanging around with friends every day.
What words of encouragement or advice would you give someone looking to become their own boss?
Start small but think big. In anything you put your mind to believe that it will one day be bigger than you.
What are some of the biggest/most common mistakes novice entrepreneurs make?
Not being able to separate business money from your money.
Building from the ground up
What are some misconceptions about being an entrepreneur?
That it’s the quickest way of becoming a millionaire.
What are some non-negotiable things you practice in your business?
Praying every day when I enter the business and always greeting customers with a smile.
How do you market your business?
I’m still relatively small so I don’t have a budget for big marketing. So, for now, it’s through social media and word of mouth.
Any tips for building up a team?
People you can trust with your life, people that can align to the vision you have for the business.
Most satisfying moment as an entrepreneur that keeps you going.
Customer feedback and being recognised by people who aren’t even your customers.
Who do you look up to and why? Who is your biggest source of inspiration as an entrepreneur?
I look up to God because I believe He brought me to this world to fulfil a certain purpose which is to bring light both metaphorically and literally. My biggest source of Inspiration is Lekau Sehoana, the tenacity and persistence he has when it comes to entrepreneurship are unmatched.
Every entrepreneur’s journey is unique. The lessons, sacrifices, challenges, and reasons for taking that next step are different for every entrepreneur. What we can be sure of and have learned from the young entrepreneur lighting up South Africa is you need discipline and faith – in yourself, your product, and for Makutu, in God, that the dream is worth chasing. That hard work will pay off. And if you keep seeking inspiration and means to constantly improve your business, the only way is up.
If you believe entrepreneurship is the next step for you but aren’t sure where to start, head on over to our entrepreneurship career hub for tips, information and recommended courses you can take to kick-start your business.