By: Sisanda Ntshinga
Growing up Bulelani Njobe spent a lot of time with his grandmother who owned a store in Langa township in Cape Town, and that was his first taste of the world of entrepreneurship. But like most young people in the township he was exposed to more than just business and soon found himself in a gang and doing drugs. But when he decided to take a different path, he chose not only to change his life but the lives of other young people around him through his cleaning business.
When Bulelani managed to get his life back on track he was eager to follow his dream of starting his own business and in 2015 Oracle Green was born. Starting out with no capital, Bulelani decided to start by cleaning his neighbours dustbins for a small fee, and although his peers mocked him for the work he did, he persevered because he knew what he wanted to achieve through his business in the long run. At first a lot of the people that he approached were very sceptical because of his age, but his first 12 customers gave him hope to continue knocking on more doors. “The only way I could convince them the service I offer is up to standard was through showing them and feedback from the existing clients who had taken a chance on me helped a lot.” When the business started out all he did was wash bins and now his services include roof cleaning, upholstery cleaning and full house painting. Bulelani went from working with a few of his friends to now employing 6 permanent workers to keep up with the demand.
“So the first people who worked in the business were my friends. Everyone else thought it was dirty work and didn’t think I would stick with it.”
Customer referrals have played a huge role in growing his business but when he first started the only people who believed in him were his friends. “So the first people who worked in the business were my friends. Everyone else thought it was dirty work and didn’t think I would stick with it. And although my friends aren’t a part of the business any more I will always appreciate their help and belief in my vision.” A solid support structure is extremely important for entrepreneurs but more so for young entrepreneurs. For Bulelani the support from the community and his friends made it clear that you can start something with nothing if you believe in yourself and keep pushing. “I just wanted to show my peers that there are better opportunities than gangsterism and crime. I wanted to be an example and show them that although I had lost my way I was later able to turn my life around.”
Bulelani believes the earlier you start as an entrepreneur the better, especially if its not coming from a place of desperation or as a last resort. He says the earlier young people are taught about business, the better the chances of them seeing it as an actual career path. “Supporting young entrepreneurs is vital for the future of our country, and government should invest in young business owners because they create employment opportunities and more young people can see it as a feasible career.”
But as much as government needs to do their part, Bulelani says entrepreneurs also need to put in the work by doing their research and learning as much as they can about the type of business they’ll be going into. “Young entrepreneurs need to be confident and committed to their business and brand. And it won’t hurt going that extra mile to exceed the clients’ expectation.
Featured image: Oracle Green founder Bulelani Njobe