Whatwas the toughest time of your own career in Black Like Me?
It was 17 November 1993 when the BlackLike Me factory was torched. I watched the building burn down to nothing and Iknew that people were relying on me to rise up from those ashes. Their jobs andtheir livelihood depended upon it. I needed to draw deeply on my own well ofpersonal strength to bounce back. Thankfully, in the end, we were verysuccessful in doing so.
Whatare you most proud of having achieved?
The ability to retain my independence.I started Black Like Me because I didn’t want to work as a gardener or securityguard during Apartheid, which is what many young men my age were doing. I wouldhave preferred to retain my independence through higher education, butobviously that door was largely closed to me; so instead I started a business, sellingcosmetics from door to door. I remain self-reliant to this day.While I am able to work together with other people, I operate as an autonomoushuman being. I don’t rely on others for success and I don’t blame them for myfailings.
Whatimportant lesson do you have to share with young entrepreneurs?
Know your shortcomings and surroundyourself with the best brains. People sometimes ask me why I gave each of mypartners an equal share in the business – they are surprised that I gave awayso much equity. But there is no other way, in my opinion. Don’t take chances;if you want commitment from people, pay them for it. Make no mistake, I am acapitalist and I want to make money like everyone else, but my advice would benot to be greedy. You don’t have to own everything.
Whatis the biggest challenge facing young entrepreneurs in our country today?
There are many challenges. Most peoplewill tell you the biggest one is lack of access to capital, but I don’t agree.In my own experience, the biggest contributing factor to success was havingstability in my life. Unfortunately, many of our communities, black communitiesin particular, lack social stability; I believe this is a great hindrance tosuccess for the young people living there. Apartheid might have been the causeof such destabilisation, but we need to move forward and overcome it if we wantpeople from these communities to be entrepreneurial leaders.
Doyou believe young South African entrepreneurs lack role models?
Perhaps, but we need to rise abovethat. If you don’t see a role model, become one yourself. If you want success,you have to make it happen. Get on with it and stop complaining that you haveno one to look up to. Take personal responsibility.