IN less than two years, Siyabulela Mandla's business has grown from an idea to a company giving full-time employment to 21 Motherwell residents.
Mandla, 32, calls himself a "social entrepreneur" and explains that to him, entrepreneurship is about much more than just making money.
"It is about liberating people from the social ills associated with unemployment and helping them put food on the table by having a job. Seeing how these jobs empower people is a very rewarding experience," Mandla said.
Last year Mandla's company, 469 Carwash, was the regional winner of the SAB Kick Start competition as well as the SEDA Business Stars competition. Since then it has mushroomed into a business enterprise, including other units comprising the 469 Barlounge located in Motherwell NU 9, 469 Media and Entertainment as well as 469 Transport Services.
The car wash was started in a municipal building in NU3 and the premises is shared with a tyre shop as part of the municipality's urban renewal programme.
"It is a good example of how public/ private partnerships can be successful. I would like to expand it to the 469 Lifestyle Centre which will be a one-stop-shop incorporating an internet cafe, shisa nyama and a salon," Mandla said. He has big plans of rolling out this business initiative to other townships – initially Mdantsane and Soweto – to promote essential business services in townships across the country. The name of his business enterprise "469" is the landline area code for Motherwell and the reason for this, Mandla said, is so that people can "own it and relate to it".
"I want to sell Motherwell to the rest of the world – it is the biggest township in the metro and yet these basic services like a car wash did not exist here. I want entrepreneurs from the township to realise that it is possible to overcome our challenges and become successful and inspirational," Mandla said.
He said often in Motherwell, the cold face of entrepreneurship could be seen of a survivalist entrepreneur sells fruit or cigarettes on the street to make a living.
"If you are unemployed, it will work for a short time but in order to become sustainable and get the tools for a proper business model, entrepreneurs also need to get formal training and qualifications to help them with the financial and marketing side of their business, for instance."
Mandla, who has a background in engineering, has just completed his masters in business administration and plans to tackle his Phd next year.
"It has not been easy but I have a good team that supports me."
Recently under the 469 Media & Entertainment business, he helped organise a National Braai Day event in partnership with SAB at the Nelson Mandela Peace Park in Motherwell.