Q&A with Mmabatho Mokiti

Youth Month is celebrated annually throughout the month of June. Not only does this month coincide with the historically significant Youth Day, but represents the government’s commitment to confronting youth unemployment in South Africa. In order to counteract the increasing levels of youth unemployment, it is crucial to communicate and promote entrepreneurship as an attractive employment opportunity to South Africa’s youth.

Mmabatho Mokiti is an inspirational South African entrepreneur who is the proud founder of Mathemaniacs, a private tutoring company, and was also the runner up in the 2011 SME Toolkit South Africa Young Entrepreneurs Business Plan competition.

Nazeem Martin, Managing Director of the competition’s co-sponsor Business Partners Limited, described the finalists as role models to the rest of South Africa’s youth. “Their innovation, tenacity and dedication to chasing their dreams can serve as a true inspiration to all aspiring entrepreneurs.”

You were the runner up in the 2011 Young Entrepreneurs Business Plan Competition, why did you enter the competition?

I entered the competition because my business needed a “kick start”. My business was already running, but I didn’t have a business plan. I felt this would be a challenge and that it could also be very rewarding.

The prizes were very attractive and could assist me in taking my business to the next level. Prizes such as mentoring added a lot of value to my business.

Could you please provide a brief description of the business you created the business plan for?

Mathemaniacs is a two year old private mathematics, science and accounting tutoring company aimed at bringing ‘the FUN’ into studying maths, science and accounting. Most learners have developed a negative attitude towards these subjects. We therefore aim to eliminate the negative connotations around these topics by giving the learners private one-on-one lessons in their place of safety, where they feel most comfortable.

We bring ‘the FUN’ out of these subjects by using innovative teaching methods and applying Maths and Science to real life experiences, thus making the work easier for the learners to understand and remember. We attempt to make learning enjoyable, which then builds the learners’ confidence as a result of improved school results. Our target market consists of school, university and adult students.

We also organise workshops and camps for larger groups, where we again, strive to make learning Maths and Science an enjoyable experience.

We have also started to develop a statistics department, where we help postgraduates with their data analysis for their theses, by helping them to build a regression model and measure the impact of a project.

Have you always aspired to become an entrepreneur?

From a young age I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I grew up around my grandfather, who was an entrepreneur, and watched him do what he loved, while making money. This experience motivated me to pursue the same thing.

At that time I didn’t know what type of business I wanted to start, but when I finished studying I decided to make use of my passion for mathematics, science, education and youth development to form a business. I had just finished university and was sure that I didn’t want to work in a nine-to-five job. I decided to use my last R500, which I had earned from a student job as a tutor, and bought my first textbooks. I printed a couple of flyers and asked my cousin to help me distribute them at a school parking lot.

A week later a parent called me desperately in need of lessons for her child. Soon after my lessons started the child’s marks began to improve. Soon after, my business started to expand as my clientele began to grow via the positive word of mouth generated from my first student.

How important do you believe a strong business plan and pitch is in the success of a business?

A strong business plan is crucial to the success of a business. Firstly, a business plan is a good indicator of your proposal’s feasibility. Secondly, a business plan helps an entrepreneur structure their business, by implementing processes and objectives.

Most times aspiring entrepreneurs think that they only need a business plan in order to apply for funding, but a business plan establishes basic business guidelines. A concrete plan allows you to assess your environment and establish if a need and a niche in the market exists, hence determining whether your business will be a success or not.

What are the biggest challenges you have experienced as an entrepreneur?

The biggest challenge has been convincing students to leave their current tutoring company to join Mathemaniacs. I also struggled to convince parents that enlisting with Mathemaniacs would improve their children’s marks while, teaching them to enjoy the subject matter.

If you could provide advice to other young aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?

If you dream of becoming an entrepreneur, go for it! Everyone may not believe in your idea in the beginning, but you need to remain fully committed. You should believe so strongly in your business that you end up convincing others to do the same. Being an entrepreneur is much like being a sales person, because at the end of the day, you need to convince others to believe in your idea. Nothing makes a business more successful than passion.

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