Soweto’s famous Vilakazi Street this week transformed from a tourist attraction to a business training hub when entrepreneur and CEO of Lichaba Group, Max Lichaba invited 50 underprivileged matric and university students to discuss the intricacies of starting a business.
The session, which was aptly held on the eve of the launch of the Youth Employment Service (YES) programme by President Cyril Ramaphosa, was hosted under the guise of The Matt Brown Show, a global digital media platform founded and hosted by South African Matt Brown.
With years of entrepreneurial experience, Lichaba discussed his own personal journey and offered insights and motivation to everyone in attendance.
“His story is truly inspiring coming from a small mining town in the Free state and built a R120 million empire from nothing,” said Brown about Lichaba’s success as an entrepreneur.
Lichaba and Brown share an entrepreneurial philosophy – to create a groundswell amongst the youth, creating the next generation of young entrepreneurs who will, in turn, be an asset to the South African economy.
“Young people need to learn to separate the business finances from their personal accounts. This was a big learning curve for me when starting out,” said Lichaba.
“Most of the money that belongs to the business needs to be re-invested in the business and used to equip yourself with the right skills. Your business’ money is never yours to spend.”
Lichaba related how he lost everything when he started his business and attributes this to a lack of research on his part. He told of how he had to sell everything he owned to start over.
“Doing proper research was the biggest lesson I learned,” he said.
During his Q&A with the students, it was clear that Lichaba is a big believer in building your personal brand as an entrepreneur.
“First impressions last,” he commented, “and it’s even more important to make a great first impression when you are in the jewellery design business like I am.”
He explained that when he started out he would make sure he looked impressive when walking into meetings.
“I didn’t have a car and sometimes had to walk far to get to prospective clients. Even though I was sweaty and tired at times when arriving, I would make sure that I looked fresh and tidy when meeting them. These days I can wear what I want, purely because I built a name for myself over the years,” he said.
When asked what the biggest obstacle entrepreneurs need to overcome, Lichaba and Brown agreed that it was asking for help.
“Every entrepreneur needs to realise that it’s okay to ask for help. You don’t need to feel like an island. There’s an entire entrepreneur community willing to help. The trick is that you need to ask,” Brown commented.
“The positive response from the youth in attendance is great to see, and Max and I hope that we’ve imparted some wisdom and tips that they’ll find valuable on their journeys,” he concluded.