There is more to entrepreneurship than the “mere creation of money” says local entrepreneur Kulani Mtileni of Limpopo, who sees his entrepreneurship journey as a business career, perfectly matched with a good sense of philanthropy.
Since his teenage years in high school, Kulani says that he always knew he was destined for entrepreneurship as he was as optimistic as he was opportunistic – down to selling Chappies bubble-gum to his classmates.
After starting his formal entrepreneurial journey when he was just 22 years old and fresh out of tertiary studies, where he qualified as a registered dietitian and opened his own practice, Kulani was inspired to do something more with his entrepreneurial spirit when he noticed the increasing level of poverty in his community. At the age of 27, he then founded Polokwane Cleaning Ladies in June 2016.
“I saw so many young women in my community turning to desperate measures to make ends meet for their families, and I just felt the calling to help them,” says Kulani. “My own domestic worker had expressed her struggles to provide for her family, and I was inspired to start a small business that could help these young women and improve their situations.”
It’s not just about the rand and cents for this passionate entrepreneur – it’s about seeing the positive impact that his business has on his employees. Since opening its doors a couple of months ago, Polokwane Cleaning Ladies already employs 15 young women from disadvantaged backgrounds, whose personal relief and ability to provide for their families is both Kulani’s biggest reward, and his driving force. “Seeing my team happy and grateful for work, makes me want to work harder for them and improve my business. Every day I wake up and tell myself ‘Let me just go and change someone’s life’.”
His business’ philanthropic spirit is noticed elsewhere too. His team often donates their time to the local orphanage and primary school, and the business has gained a number of new clients as a result.
Whilst the business is still young, Kulani has already learnt a few hard lessons, such as the need for correct pricing structures and payment controls. “Avoiding under- and overcharging in the cleaning industry is very important. Chasing payments from customers can also be a daunting task.”
2017, however, has started with a bang for the business, which won its first big corporate client on 1 February with a 12-month contract – making way for the team to achieve their goals.
“We are working really hard and are putting ourselves out there using the local radio stations and newspapers,” says Kulani, who adds that his five-year goal is to employ 500 young men and women, from poverty stricken areas, as well as graduates who cannot find employment. He also aims to up-skill his own staff and empower them to eventually start their own businesses.
For this local entrepreneur, his best tip for aspiring entrepreneurs is to remain patient. “Work hard and know what you aim to achieve – but be patient in getting there. Above all, always remember that starting a business is not only about making money for yourself. Rather think about how your business can impact and improve your local community and create jobs for those around you.”