Starting a business is tough. Ask any new entrepreneur and they’ll tell you that launching a business is terrifying, exciting, rewarding and gut-wrenching. Which is why staying passionate about what you do is so vitally important.
Just ask Lebo Malepa, who actually tattooed the word ‘Soweto’ on his arm to remind himself every day of what he’s trying to achieve. He carries his goal as a badge of honour. This is his Soweto. It’s where he was born and grew up, and now it’s where he’s growing his business, showcasing what his township has to offer the world.
The entrepreneurial bug bit early. It was 1999 and he began welcoming tourists into his family home. Tourism was in its infancy in the township, but Malepa was determined to be instrumental in its growth.
Soweto is the largest township in the world, and rich in history and culture – it just needed someone championing its story. Malepa first sold crafts at the Hector Pieterson memorial, and then turned to postcards, posters and t-shirts, all showcasing Soweto. By 2003 he had officially turned his family home into ‘Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers’.
Today Soweto Backpackers includes bicycle tours, Tuk Tuk tours, walking tours, a city tour, and even safari tours to the Pilansberg. And Backpackers is still going strong.
After more than ten years this is no start-up, but the inspiration remains the same: Believing in a dream, and making it happen.
Annie McWalters,CEO, The Hope Factory
“Lebo joined The Hope Factory because he wanted mentorship and a space where he could really grow his business and take it to the next level. We walk a six-year journey with our entrepreneurs, so we choose these businesses very carefully. This isn’t just a handout; we’re growing South Africa’s future employers and so passion and dedication are vital ingredients that we look for. If you aren’t totally convinced and committed to your vision and business, success won’t follow. But if you are, if you’re willing to chase that dream, then the entrepreneurial journey will be incredibly rewarding.”