Name of company: Under 35 Mavericks
Years in existence: 1 year
Position: Founder and Chief Maverick
Can you tell us a little bit about your background – personal, educational and professional?
I studied Accounting Science at Unisa with the view of being a chartered accountant specialising in mergers and acquisitions. That dream never materialised, thank God, because I would have been extremely frustrated in the profession because of its rigidity. I spent 8 years in a sales/ business development role within a dynamic youth-owned media house which honed my creativity and strategic skills, which ultimately led me to consult on media strategy and solutions for names clients such as Montblanc, Ferrari, Maserati, Jaeger LeCoultre, Jaguar-Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Christian Lacroix, Absa-Barclays and many others. So, in essence, I am a strategic marketer with a financial management grounding.
Can you tell us a little bit about your company and what you do?
Under 35 Mavericks is a 100% black youth-owned specialist consultancy with a niche within the youth enterprise development space. We also consult for public and private sector players in the area of sustainable creation of employment for the youth.
How did your journey begin and how have you achieved success so far?
After joining a start-up media house at age 19 as a junior sales executive, I realised that my passion was never within the accounting fraternity even though I had excelled exceptionally in my studies. It was within my newly found occupation that my entrepreneurialism, creativity, sales, business development and knowledge of business developed because I worked extremely closely with my employer, who was himself a young entrepreneur.
Over the years, I quickly worked myself into managerial positions, ending up as head of sales at the tender age of 26, managing staff twice my age and responsible for millions of rands in turnover. The most prized moment, that quite frankly set me up on my road to entrepreneurship was when my employer and I agreed that if I dedicated 5 years of my life as an employee in his business, he would return the favour by mentoring me and teaching me all there was to learn about starting, growing and running a business.
“Give the market good products and services and it will reward you, handsomely”
We both honoured this agreement and after 7 years with him, I left saturated with business knowledge and expertise to go on and launch my enterprise – Under 35 Mavericks. I have never worked in a corporation for a single day in my life – I live, eat, breathe and sleep start-ups and small businesses.
Has it been difficult? What were some of the obstacles you face and how did you overcome them?
Difficult? That’s an understatement, it has been almost impossible. Which strangely is what drives me, I have always been the guy who looks to accomplish what everybody else deems as impossible. Over and above the ability to look the naysayers in the eye and say “I told you I would do it” it’s the brutality of challenge and its accomplishment there after which are the greatest reward for me.
The major challenge quite frankly for me was just getting people to believe and back my vision, financially. The only way to overcome the scepticism you face when starting up is to find creative ways and just get your project off the ground. Once that’s done, the sceptics will drift towards you in droves- Just start, somehow, anyhow, with whatever little resources you have- That’s how I did it.
What is your overall vision for your business?
We envision to be Africa’s ‘Go-to-Guys’ for youth entrepreneurship and employment creation strategies. That’s the dream.
What do you think it takes to establish and run a successful business in South Africa?
Curiosity, creativity, networks, tenacity and exposure.
How did you finance your business, how difficult or easy was the process?
This business was bootstrapped – In other words we used OPM, ‘other people’s money’ [laughs]. Seriously though, we didn’t have a red penny, it was all built upon leveraging relationships and strategic intentions of our potential clients.
What are the three things you attribute your business success to?
We are still on our journey towards achieving success. However, our formula is simple – Bold. Innovative. Dynamic. Give the market good products and services and it will reward you, handsomely.
When did you know that you were an entrepreneur?
From the age of 10, I have been wheeling and dealing in something, borrowing money from my mother with the promise to pay it back with interest once I had done whatever it was I was doing then. So I have always been entrepreneurial, it just over the past 24 months that I have formalised my title.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that leaders must create other leaders, so I would describe myself as laissez-faire meets mentor type of leader. I’ll hold your hand firmly, until you can run, but I’ll also pinch you in the backside simultaneously to expedite the process.
What are some of your favourite motivational books and motivational gurus that have inspired you in growing your business?
Motivation, not so much, more strategy, innovation and competitive advantage – Blue Ocean Strategy, Innovators DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators and anything from Michael Porter, the king of competitive advantage strategy.
What three pieces of advice would you offer young entrepreneurs starting out today?
Be Bold. Be Innovative. Be Dynamic. Don’t just be ordinary entrepreneur. Be a Maverick. Be a Game Changer.
What’s the worst and best business advice you’ve ever received?
Worst – You need money to start a business. Best – Team work makes the dream work.
And finally, do you believe in luck, hard work or both?
Hard, smart work ultimately creates pockets of opportunities which present themselves at the most opportune time. Loosely put, if you work hard and smart, you’ll create your own strokes of luck.