Believing in Purpose over Passion – Tuming Lee

Updated on 6 August 2014

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Believing in purpose over passion - Tuming Lee

Company Profile

Name of company: Tuming Lee Studios

Years in existence: 5 years

Position: Founder and publishing editor of KICKSTART Magazine

Can you tell us a little bit about your background – personal, educational and professional?

Before I started my own business, I was in the corporate environment for almost a decade performing administrative and managerial functions. I was unfulfilled so I decided to break free of the corporate chains and attempted to make a living my way and that’s how I became an entrepreneur.

I hold a Bachelor of Commerce degree from North-West University in SA and a Certificate in Entrepreneurial Leadership from Sierra Nevada College in the US. I am also a graduate of the Goldman Sachs-GIBS 10,000 Women Scholarship Programme for Women Entrepreneurs (2014) as well as runner-up in the Business Women Association Gauteng Regional Award – Emerging Entrepreneur category.

Over and above that I am the proud Season Five winner of SABC 1 business reality show, Making Moves (2013). I have made several print, radio and TV appearances as a result of my entrepreneurial efforts including SHIFT on SABC 1 and SABC 2’s Morning Live not forgetting I also tried my hand at news reporting for a 24-hour News Africa News Channel (ANN7) covering pre-election stories from March to May 2014. That’s my background in a nutshell.

 “My dreams have always been bigger than the contacts I have in my phone book”

Can you tell us a little bit about your company and what you do?

Tuming Lee Studios is a children’s book publishing firm and language agency that offers translation and editing services in all 11 official languages of South Africa as well as other non-South African languages such as French, Mandarin and German. April 2013 has seen the successful addition of an entrepreneurial magazine, Kickstart to its already impressive portfolio. The magazine is available in over 80 CNA stores, Sasol and Engen garages nationwide.

How did your journey begin and how have you achieved success so far?

I have achieved success in some areas such as the books and language services but as for KICKSTART Magazine, I am nowhere near the end line, not even a quarter of the way. It’s because the dream that I have for my magazine goes beyond SA borders.

I have been fortunate to fulfil part of that dream through my business talk show called KICKSTART Africa which is coming to Planet Radio TV soon. The show is exclusively being televised in non-SADEC countries on DSTV. The next project in the pipeline is the KICKSTART Reality TV Entrepreneurship series that we are busy working on. Once that is concluded and is ready to be flown on SA television, only then can I say that we’ve achieved success as a team.

What were some of the obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?

The journey has been difficult from the start because my dreams have always been bigger than the contacts I have in my phone book. Hence I constantly attempt to put myself out there with the hope of finding the right sponsor for all my projects and whose collaboration can catapult us to the next level.

Because I am still actively searching for multiple sponsors to support our many projects I find that my challenges remain financial. I received training and mentorship through the many programmes I have been a part of, but none of them have been able to open the door that would connect us to a much-needed financial source. All the support I have been receiving has been mainly non-financial. Although I appreciate the support, I have hit a plateau and I cannot break the glass ceiling because I need money to hire the full-time expertise I need to go higher.

My business is still being self-funded up to this point. Funding remains elusive no matter how hard I work. I overcome the financial difficulties by denying myself luxuries such as fancy offices and full-time staff. I have mastered the art of making do with whatever limited resources I have. Funding will find me on the way.

“Young people have to understand the purpose of entrepreneurship is not necessarily to become rich but to create a livelihood”

How many people does your company employ?

13 part-time. We use a lot of freelancers due to the nature of the work we do. Most of our translators, writers and editors have been with us from the start.

What is your overall vision for your business?

To provide enabling education in local languages that inspires the masses at the bottom of the pyramid to expand their horizons.

What do you think it takes to establish and run a successful business in South Africa?

The 5 P’s. Purpose, Planning, Patience, Persistence and Practice. It is very rare to excel at running a business the first time you do it, that’s why you must practice again and again until you are happy with the result of your hard work.

Depending on the industry you are in, some people find running a business easy, some find it difficult. My experience has been bitter sweet but the purpose provides the inner drive to keep one going. Notice how I said purpose instead of passion because running a business is sometimes like an employment situation. Most people are in jobs that they are not crazy about but because they are committed to their purpose, they end up succeeding as employees. Their purpose could be to feed the family, so their commitment to their families causes them to act responsibly in those jobs and they are eventually celebrated as star employees.

My purpose with KICKSTART is to encourage youth from impoverished backgrounds to try their hand at entrepreneurship to put bread on the table. They have to understand the purpose of entrepreneurship is not necessarily to become rich but to create a livelihood. I define purpose in a light sense here – as a reason for doing something. It’s not the size of the purpose that matters; it is your commitment to it that is the ultimate decision maker on whether you will be a success or failure at what you do. Without purpose, you will perish.

Read Also: On purpose, passion, and profit

How did you finance your business, how difficult or easy was the process?

Very difficult. Self-funded all the way. My mom helped out here and there however the majority of the funds came from me.

What are the three things you attribute your business success to?

A supportive team that believes in the company vision just as much as I do. Some even more than me. Keeping my overheads low has helped to keep us afloat. Participating in small business competitions and programmes has provided me with the skills and exposure needed to expand my horizons.

“Experience has taught me that there is no one secret to success but multiple secrets; you just have to pick the one that works for you”

When did you know that you were an entrepreneur?

When I won Making Moves, a business TV reality show on SABC 1. One of the judges, Tidi Khobane told me that I am an entrepreneur and that I am an inspiration to young girls. I felt validated.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Consultative yet authoritative depending on the situation. I believe that there’s a time and place for everything. Time to talk things through when the deadline is permissive and a time to get to the chase because the environment calls for it.

What are some of your favourite motivational books and motivational gurus that have inspired you to grow your business?

Billy-Guy Bhembe, Inspiration on the Go; Gayton McKenzie, A Hustler’s Bible, Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich.

What three pieces of advice would you offer young entrepreneurs starting today?

Have a plan, be committed and work your fingers literally to the bone until you win.

What’s the worst and best business advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I ever received was from Gayton McKenzie who said that you should not hustle with people who do not have the same drive and ambition as you do, people who have nothing to lose if the deal falls through. You must hustle with people whose hunger for success is similar to yours or even deeper. People who won’t abandon you when the going gets tough.

The worst advice I ever received was that the law of attraction is the secret to getting the things we want. That’s a false – truth if there’s such a thing. Success is a journey and a very long one. If you are just going to rely on visualisation and the law of success to get you your heart’s desire, you are in for a long, long wait. The secret was secret for a reason so that it stays hidden from innocent minds that will accept it as the ultimate truth and follow blindly without question to their detriment. Experience has taught me that there is no one secret to success but multiple secrets; you just have to pick the one that works for you and go with that and not necessarily pick the one that received the best reviews.

And finally, do you believe in luck, hard work or both?

I believe in both because the harder you work, the more you get noticed and the more you will receive lucky breaks because your work now speaks for you. Hard, professional work breeds some degree of luck, in my opinion.

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