8 Inspiring Business Founders Inspiring the Next Generation of Township Entrepreneurs

township entrepreneur icons

“We need role models in the townships, not American or European role models but local success stories that can be showcased and celebrated,” said Luvuyo Rani, co-founder of Cape Town-based Silulo Ulutho Technologies.

Silulo Ulutho Technologies operates IT stores and training centres in townships and rural communities.

Rani told news agency EWN, he believes that to tell your story (as a township entrepreneur), makes people feel inspired. “They realise that if I can do it, with my background, nothing is stopping them.”

Fortunately, South Africa has seen many individuals from all over the country, who grew up in townships and opened businesses for themselves and their communities. These entrepreneurs venture in different industries like food, technology and fashion.

We list eight entrepreneurs who grew up- and started businesses in townships.

Itumeleng Mpatlanyana – founder, Nkukhu Box

Itumeleng Mpatlanyana – founder, Nkukhu Box

Itumeleng Mpatlanyana – founder, Nkukhu Box

Founded in 2016, Itumeleng Mpatlanyana’s fast-food franchise, Nkukhu Box grew to ten stores which now operates all over the country.

Nkukhu Box is a specially designed shipping container, creating employment in township areas. Nkukhu Box uses strictly local resources such as vegetables and bread. Mpatlanyana said in a SME South Africa article that Nkukhu-box is also involved in projects aimed at uplifting communities.

Maite Makgoba – founder, Momppy Mpoppy

Maite Makgoba – founder, Momppy Mpoppy

Maite Makgoba – founder, Momppy Mpoppy

Maite Makgoba founded and registered CHILDISH, which produces and trades in children’s toys and children’s character branded clothing and accessories. The first product done by CHILDISH is an African black doll, brand and character with an exaggerated afro known as MOMPPY MPOPPY.

Makgoba told Elle magazine that unlike Barbie and other black dolls on the market, Momppy Mpoppy celebrates “African girls’ lush woolly hair, its coily curls, sun-kissed golden skin, and African fabulousness.” She grew up in Soweto and today most of her staff are youth from that area, Makgoba told Brand South Africa.

DJ Sbu – founder, MoFaya Energy Drink and co-founder, Massiv Metro

DJ Sbu - founder, MoFaya Energy Drinks and co-founder, Massiv Metro

DJ Sbu – founder, MoFaya Energy Drinks and co-founder, Massiv Metro

The well-known DJ and television presenter Sbu Leope, who is mostly known as DJ Sbu is a best selling author. His books ‘The Beginning’ and the second entitled ‘Billionaires Under Construction – The Mindset Of An Entrepreneur’, were best sellers, said GQ South Africa magazine.

Leope is the founder of MoFaya Energy Drinks and co-founder of Massiv Metro. He reportedly sold 26% stake of MoFaya for R493million to Coca-Cola. Leope has said on his social media platforms he sells the MoFaya can at an inexpensive price, allowing people in the townships to buy it and then resell it.

Luvuyo Rani – founder, Silulo Ulutho Technologies

Luvuyo Rani - founder, Silulo Ulutho Technologies

Luvuyo Rani – founder, Silulo Ulutho Technologies

Silulo Ulutho Technologies was founded 14 years ago, where Luvuyo Rani ran the business from his car to it later evolving into a computer repair entity years. Years later Silulo Business Incubation, one of the leading business and entrepreneurial “schools” was opened, according to the Sowetan LIVE.

Meanwhile, Silulo Ulutho Technologies opened internet cafes and business centres, not only in Khayelitsha township in Cape Town, his home township where he started, but it has 42 branches in three provinces – Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal – and 22 franchise stores, some owned by former Silulo Ulutho employees.

Lufefe Nomjana – founder, Espinaca Innovations

Lufefe Nomjana - founder, Espinaca Innovations

Lufefe Nomjana – founder, Espinaca Innovations

Lufefe Nomjana’s company, Espinaca Innovations, runs its own bakery from a renovated shipping container which produces spinach bread, as well as other spinach-based products like muffins and sandwiches. Nomjana supplies to Spar (a local retailer) outlets around Cape Town, according to How We Made It in Africa.

Espinaca Innovations also has its own bicycle delivery service to supply local offices and consumers with healthy meals.

Nomjana had started his business 2012 with just R40 (US$2.60) in his pocket. He had been volunteering at a community garden and noticed a large supply of spinach.

Lebo Malepa – founder, Lebo’s Backpackers

Lebo Malepa - founder, Lebo's Backpackers

Lebo Malepa – founder, Lebo’s Backpackers

Based in Orlando West-Soweto, Lebo’s Backpackers accommodation is popular with international tourists for its authenticity and gives you the opportunity to experience Soweto, its people, the different neighborhoods and its history up close and personal.

According to the Soweto Life magazine, the business that was founded in 2004 by Lebo Malepa, also provides Tuk-tuk, bicycle tours, walking and customised tours. Malepa started from renting a room of his parents’ home as a guest house to tourists, to later involving his neighbours to be part of his tourism venture, by supplying services like food and accommodation.

Boitumelo Ntsoane – founder, Afrilink Healthcare

Boitumelo Ntsoane – founder, Afrilink Healthcare

Boitumelo Ntsoane – founder, Afrilink Healthcare

Boitumelo Ntsoane started small medical centre in 2005 in a residential area in Pretoria West. It hosted a doctor, dentist, optometrist and a pharmacy. Two years later, she re-invested her profits back into her business to purchase a fully furnished mobile clinic, which also incorporated an in-house clinic.

According to Entrepreneur Mag, Ntsoane’s Afrilink Healthcare assists the Tshwane Department of Health to conduct school-based health campaigns, which has touched more than 380 schools. She was awarded the Fairlady Women of the Future 2015 title.

Wandile Zondo – co-founder, Thesis Lifestyle

Wandile Zondo – co-founder, Thesis Lifestyle

Wandile Zondo – co-founder, Thesis Lifestyle

Wandile Zondo and his business partner, Galebowe Mahlatsi, founded the well-known street clothing brand called Thesis Lifestyle in 2005. According to Business Day’s Wanted Online, Thesis’ first retail space opened in 2007 in Mofolo, Soweto.

In 2009 they added events to their brand, like Thesis Social Jam Session where local, unsigned artists and comedians were given a platform to showcase their talent. Okmalumkoolkat, Tall Ass Mo and The Goliath Brothers used to be regulars at these jam sessions.

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Melissa Javan
Melissa Javan
Melissa Javan is a writer with nine years' experience in the media industry. She enjoys blogging and taking part in Twitter chats. You can find her on Twitter @melissa_nel.