From school-ground salesman to engineering company owner – entrepreneurial ambition pays off

Entrepreneurship has run through Mojalefa Mpele’s veins from a young age, with his journey starting when he began selling sweets and chocolates to fellow class mates at high school. His entrepreneurial drive has since grown substantially, and today Mojalefa is the founder and co-owner of BT Projects – a rapidly growing engineering company which specialises in electrical engineering and hazardous location certification.

Mojalefa began his entrepreneurial journey at the tender age of 14 after noticing that the school tuck shop was struggling to accommodate his peers due to the large amount of students present at the school and the short length of their break times. He saw this as an opportunity to provide a service and started his own small private enterprise which he ran for two years until the headmaster put an end to his successful business. Inspired by this venture, Mojalefa then knew that he wanted to pursue entrepreneurship as a career.

Having learnt that most businesses fail due to poor financial management, Mojalefa chose to strengthen his financial skills after high school and in 2011 he completed a BCom degree. BT Projects was founded in 2012 with business partner Vuyisile Rani in Sasolburg – home to international integrated chemicals and energy company, Sasol, and the area where both entrepreneurs grew up.

Armed with strong financial management, business acumen and marketing skills, BT Projects was born on the premise that clients such as Sasol, and other large energy players, such as Omnia and Consol, focus on their core business while outsourcing electrical maintenance to smaller businesses in the area – such as BT Projects – thereby transferring any associated risks away from their core business focus. In a period of just three years, BT Projects has grown their annual turnover to R12 million whilst establishing networks and building sustainable and economical relationships in the industry.

Mojalefa says that his most valued entrepreneurial skill is the ability to communicate his business vision to potential clients, effectively portraying how his company could be beneficial to them. “I learnt early on that business is about people. I regularly need to ascertain how much my clients’ needs are changing, which requires heavy investment into research so that I can propose technological and future-orientated solutions to them.”

Having benefited from being part of the Murray and Roberts enterprise development programme, Mojalefa strongly believes in mentorship and helping other young entrepreneurs. It is therefore no surprise that he developed an initiative called “BT cares” which focuses on skills development, bursaries and food parcel donations. “My own life has been blessed in many ways, not only because I worked hard or went after specific goals, but because so many people believed in me,” comments Mojalefa.

“Because we are two young, successful men from a township, we are automatically more obliged to assist those who aspire to grow in their respective careers, particularly those from the townships – because we understand how challenging the circumstances are,” he says.

Currently overseeing a team of 25, Mojalefa says that they are looking to quadruple BT Projects’ turnover within the next five years by expanding their clientele to a national scale as well as opening additional offices in Limpopo and Rustenburg.

“We are young men with a dream and hope to inspire other black entrepreneurs to reinvest their profits into their businesses so that they can grow to employ more people and positively impact their communities,” concludes Mojalefa.