Selebogo Molefe on how Young Entrepreneurs can Earn their Seat at the Table

This article forms part of SME South Africa’s Youth Month 2018 series ‘A Seat at the Table’ – an exploration of SA Youth’s efforts to step up and effect positive change. Follow all our #YouthMonth2018 coverage here.

Selebogo Molefe is a man consumed with solving problems in Africa.

The 36-year-old Molefe’s describes himself as “a connector, rainmaker, caretaker and activist who’s a marketer at heart”.

Many young entrepreneurs would have encountered him either on social media, where is known to post everything from much needed tough love, compliments and congratulations to fellow entrepreneurs or updates on the entrepreneurial ecosystem; or have attended, or pitched at one of the Hookup Dinners held across the continent.

[Taking a seat the table] means having a real voice and being heard

Molefe, also known as DrLifesgud, is perhaps best-known as the founder of one of Africa’s biggest startup networks, The Hookup Dinner (THUD), which he launched in 2012. It is a platform for early-stage entrepreneurs and people with ideas and offers a space where young entrepreneurs can connect, engage and contribute to each other’s success.

His latest effort addresses a challenge many entrepreneurs face – access to funding.  Molefe co-founded the first black-owned crowdfunding platform in South Africa, the People’s Fund. Launched in 2017, it’s a collaboration between one of SA’s largest networking communities for black entrepreneurs, Brownsense, The Hook Up Dinner and Paybook, a digital marketing company.

Molefe sits down with SME South Africa to talk about what “taking a seat at the table” means to him and why entrepreneurship is not a heroic act. 

Use your voice

[Taking a seat the table] means having a real voice and being heard. For me it’s a sense that you are not just there, but are there to ensure that you solve an actual problem.

Entrepreneurship is not a heroic act

I think it’s more a response to a need than bravery or some heroic act. It’s not a heroic act, I’m just trying to solve a problem that we face.

Let’s stop making excuses

I think if you get rid of excuses life becomes easier. If you compare South Africa to other African countries, we are well resourced, the poverty levels we talk about here are nothing compared to other African countries.

If you look at places like Kenya or Nigeria or just East Africa in general, they use mobile, they have mobile tools that they access in a great way.

The culture has developed, it’s still in its early stages, but we are seeing a lot of activity

If you leverage resources in that way and you don’t see that [lack] as an obstacle, you will have an advantage over your peers. If we stop making excuses it becomes easier to start accessing real resources.

The energy is there

I think there is a lot of great energy. The [entrepreneurship] culture has developed, it’s still in its early stages, but we are seeing a lot of activity.

I think it’s a response to the fact that a lot of young people can’t get jobs and the challenge in that is entrepreneurship is attracting a lot of people who are not in actual fact entrepreneurs, but who are launching startups because there is nothing else to do.

[But] that’s also a good thing because out of every 100 or 1 000 startups that exists, one or two are real for their makers [and will exist] beyond two to three years. It then becomes a case of how we can assist those ones so they can progress.

More than one definition of success

I’m loving Mogau Seshoene of the Lazy Makoti. I’ve been fortunate to watch her through the Hookup Dinner in her early days and for somebody to live out her passion and move from just teaching people how to cook in small groups to being a food editor of a national newspaper and having her own cook show on TV, it shows tenacity.

Another one who really gets it going is Sibusiso Ngwenya who runs the company Skinny Sbu Socks. What I like about him is that in the five years that he’s had his startup, he’s gone through a lot of stages of starting and failing.

So he’s gone through the media hype that elevated his brand, but in actual fact if you look at his numbers from an operational point of view, there’s a lot of challenges that he’s going through and that tenacity to keep going year after year and wanting to improve and show progress in that manner shows the true spirit of entrepreneurship.

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Michelle Strydom
Michelle Strydom
I'm a journalist for online publication, SME South Africa. I'm a BA journalism graduate from the University of Johannesburg. My areas of focus when it comes to writing are entrepreneurs, startups, marketing and funding. I also enjoy creative writing and proofreading.