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#EntrepreneurMonth: Madoda Khuzwayo's lessons in entrepreneurship

Inventor, educator and tech entrepreneur, Madoda Khuzwayo is one of the two selected brand ambassadors for Rémy Martin's latest advertising campaign that calls for South Africans to live their lives to the fullest. He shares his top tips and says SA is simply not creating enough entrepreneurs.
With a passion for mobile and online technologies, Khuzwayo graduated from the Vaal University of Technology with an electrical engineering diploma. He then worked part-time for BMW in Oxford, where he was involved in the production of the Mini Cooper during his e-commerce and information systems studies at the Westminster College of Computing in London. He also did advanced certification in Linux and Database Administration at SQL College in Bangalore, India, went on to teach himself how to code and fell in love with the world of the internet and the infinite possibilities it can generate for commercial use and social change.

Since then he’s been involved in a number of internet-based startups, most notably OpenTenders, an online platform that connects SMMEs with procurement opportunities in the government and private sector; the BrandPark cloud-based digital asset management software; Buyorlet, which develops, markets and operates a global property listings portal; the HostRiver domain registrar and web hosting service; and most recently Recipe Network, a global food portal that launched this month to showcase recipes and food concepts across the globe along with an online store that sells cooking tools and packaged recipes, all designed by professional chefs. A true entrepreneur.

Little wonder then that his name sprang to mind when Rémy Martin was looking for brand ambassadors that live their lives to the fullest. The “One life. Live them,” campaign was first launched for the brand by Saatchi & Saatchi Brandsrock last year, with this year’s update continuing the call for individuals to explore a life that is rich with experience.

No two days are the same for Khuzwayo – sometimes he’s coding like his life depends on it, other days he’s hosting international diplomats or on Skype in the middle of the night with developers across three different time zones.

This makes it more of an honour that he took some time out to share his personal story with us, as well as words of inspiration to others looking to follow the entrepreneurial route: Dream big and work insanely hard; don’t hold back and don’t wait for it to come to you. This ties in with the Rémy Martin campaign’s appeal of living life to the fullest by pursuing their dreams. And through the campaign, Khuzwayo hopes to inspire the next generation of African entrepreneurs to dream big and aim to create lasting legacies. “Go and get it. Life is beautiful and what you make of it. Do big things. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Don’t be afraid to fail either, because only by learning these lessons can we succeed.”

Khuzwayo shares five of the specific lessons of entrepreneurship he’s learned along the way below…

Start fast, start ugly, start cheap

Lesson 1 – It’s not just about the money. Starting businesses that have a social impact is far more fulfilling than just chasing the money. Start a business in the area that you are passionate about.

Lesson 2 – Focus is everything. You can’t be all things to all people. Choose your position and focus on becoming an expert in serving the needs of that specific market.

Lesson 3 – Getting funding too early can be a bad thing. I‘ve been on both sides of the fence, bootstrapping and funded. The lesson for me was that it is better to bootstrap your startup as much as you can before going for funding. It will help you become more creative and resourceful and, in turn, you will create a better business model faster, with less wastage.

Lesson 4 – Speed kills competition. Any idea that you start will be copied within six months. Even if you are going in the right direction, you'll be disrupted if you stop innovating.

Lesson 5 – Just start. Don’t sit on an idea forever. Just start. Start with whatever you have. Start fast, start ugly, start cheap and fix it along the way. Most business ideas you will come up with as an entrepreneur mostly likely don’t have the commercial right to exist and you won’t know until you start. It’s better to start and fail fast and then, move on.

Khuzwayo says most entrepreneurs are multi-skilled individuals with the ability to execute, lead, learn and unlearn fast. Following his own decade of personal experience, he says the most important qualities for an entrepreneur to succeed are passion, persistence and the ability to see failure as an opportunity to learn, and try again; a proactive self-starter outlook; and leadership, as opposed to management skills, in being able to sell your vision and convey it to others who want to join and follow you. Of those, he says, passion is the most important trait – you need to genuinely love your work and be willing to put in the extra hours it takes and needs to get you where you want to go, as entrepreneurship is hard, so passion will keep you going when the journey gets harder. And get harder it will. But hang in there.

Why entrepreneurship is crucial to the future of SA business

Khuzwayo says: “Entrepreneurship is the foundation from which great societies are built. Entrepreneurs are the employment, income opportunity and wealth creators and the cornerstone of every successful country.”

The challenge facing South Africa, though, is that the country simply is not creating enough entrepreneurs. He quotes from Adcorp’s startling 2012 study report that stated: “The number of new business start-ups has fallen to an all-time low. The group’s February 2012 Employment Index highlights with alarm the closure of 440,000 small business over the past five years. The gravity of the situation is emphasised by the fact that 68% of all South African workers are employed by small businesses employing fewer than 50 people.”

Those small businesses are most at risk, which is why Khuzwayo says: “It is precisely for this reason why, more than ever before, entrepreneurship matters most for our country.”

That’s entrepreneurial inspiration if ever I’ve heard it. Click here to sign up for Rémy Martin experiences around the country, click here for more on OpenTenders, follow Khuzwayo on Twitter, and click here for further entrepreneurial insights from his fellow campaign ambassador Sylvester Chauke...

About Leigh Andrews

Leigh Andrews AKA the #MilkshakeQueen, is former Editor-in-Chief: Marketing & Media at, with a passion for issues of diversity, inclusion and equality, and of course, gourmet food and drinks! She can be reached on Twitter at @Leigh_Andrews.

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