JOHANNESBURG - A junkie-turned-entrepreneur who had to pull himself up by his bootstraps after hitting rock bottom due to drug addiction is now a key player in the multibillion-rand South African property sector.
Not only did Leroy Slava battle substance abuse, he had to surmount many challenges on his way to the top, including losing R1 million in a franchise business deal that went sour.
The 33-year-old businessman from Boksburg is founder and chief executive of Leroy Slava Properties, which he established in 2009, among other business interests.
He buys, sells and rents out properties in Johannesburg’s east rand neighbourhood including Boksburg, Benoni, Germiston and Springs. “I live here and I know the market better,” he says.
His main goal is to take over Boksburg’s inner city buildings and gentrify the area just like Johannesburg’s Maboneng Precinct and Braamfontein.
Slava, who also has properties in the affluent suburb of Fourways and in KwaZulu-Natal, says he wants to focus on inner city buildings because of their high demand for residential and business purposes.
“It’s no secret that most people, when they come to look for work opportunities, prefer to stay in the inner city in order to be closer to work. That way you will always have tenants in the inner city,” explains Slava.
He also conducts workshops aimed at teaching people how to invest in property, analyse deals, source funding and negotiate with banks.
The workshops are held in association with entrepreneur Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Education programme.
“I’m one of their speakers and coaches in South Africa. They used to fly their international guys to come and do workshops in the country. I was the first to go to their programmes and they absorbed me,” he says.
Slava, whose drug addiction saw him dropping out of Wits University where he was studying towards a qualification in marketing and business management, has shared platforms with serial entrepreneurs including Kiyosaki, JT Foxx and Peng Joon, among others.
“I was a drug addict for about 10 years. It started at Boksburg High School and after school it got worse. I was using ecstasy, acid, cocaine and cat,” he says.
His addiction spiralled out of control when his father passed on. “I went to rehab and came out and went back on drugs. I was a junkie.”
Slava says by the age of 25 he was in and out of drug houses. “I said, ‘no man, this is not how life’s supposed to be’. I went to church and gave my life to the Lord,” he says.
He started a cleaning company with his mother, employing 40-odd employees to cleaning train stations and Transnet offices. “We also bought a food franchise but it failed. We lost about R1m on that. We learnt some lessons,” says Slava.
Determined not to give up, he ventured into the courier business and bought some bakkies for the business.
“After that I started the property business. I went to it fulltime in 2009 because, out of all the other business, the property business was making the most money,” he explains.
His plans are to buy more properties and grow the business into a R1 billion portfolio within the next 10 years. “I plan to buy a property in the UK because a lot of guys I work with say the UK is one of the best markets where you get good returns on your property.”
Besides property, Slava says he buy gold bars and silver whenever he gets a chance. “I also buy bitcoins. I have bitcoins but my thing is property. These other things are little add-ons.”
He also loves reading books such as Dale Carnegie’s How to win friends and influence people; John Maxwell’s Be A People Person; and Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad.
“I like books about people. If you understand people, business will be easier,” says Slava.
- BUSINESS REPORT