Entrepreneur focused on growing youth-owned small businesses

By Sipho Mabaso Time of article published Jul 1, 2019

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JOHANNESBURG -  Pearl Maphumulo, the founding managing director of the Business Development Agency (BDA),  30, is currently in N’Djamena, Chad, upon the invitation of the African Union’s secretariat of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), which is hosting the First International Youth Symposium on July 1 - 2 in collaboration with the government of the Republic of Chad.

The young KwaZulu Natal-born (August 9, 1988) entrepreneur will participate in a high level discussion focusing on the digital economy, entrepreneurship and youth unemployment. 

An earlier meeting of AU heads of states took a resolution to invest in youth across the continent to ensure that Africa can realise its demographic dividend.  

Unsurprisingly, that Maphumulo was invited to the international youth symposium this week, because, as the leader of an agency focused on growing mainly youth-owned small businesses, she is a driver of that demographic dividend the continent is seeking to reap.

Maphumulo is on an upward trajectory.

This year Maphumulo was invited to the Global Food Innovation Summit, which was held in May in Milan, Italy.  The summit is the largest food innovation event in the world, attended by movers and shakers. In 2017, former US president Barack Obama was a keynote speaker at the summit.  

Pearl Maphumulo, the founding managing director of the Business Development Agency (BDA). Image: Supplied.
Last week she was the facilitator of a panel discussion on the development of youth-owned township-based enterprises into sustainable concerns at the Wits Business School’s Donald Gordon auditorium, which is where we caught up with her.  

She says her dream is to elevate 48 of the numerous mainly small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMMEs), which she provides business development consulting services to, into highly profitable multinational corporations “from Africa”. 

Maphumulo outlined her personal journey to development. 

“When my mother passed on in 2016 I had given her a diary to write a few memories. This would allow her to share personal things, which she would probably not be able to in-person with me.  

"By the time my mother passed in my arms, she had left 48 memoires in that diary. The number 48 really stuck with me.  It had meaning for me.  I figured that retirement for me would be my company [The Business Development Agency (Pty) Ltd] helping to build 48 client businesses into sustainable multinational businesses on the continent.

" I am currently 30 years of age and according to the plan I developed with the help of one of my mentors, should I remain consistent and relentless in my journey, I could reach this by 45 years of age,” says Maphumulo.

Maphumulo says what makes her confident that  she can achieve this lofty goal for SMEs on the continent “is because I not only have a passion for the work I do, but I also have been intentional in partnering on certain projects with entities such as the APRM, which allow me access to the other countries on the continent, as well as knowledge and young leaders”.

For a decade now, Maphumulo has dedicated her days to helping mainly youth-owned businesses with solutions related to branding, marketing advisory, research, business strategy, product development, pricing, business proposals and plans, capacity building programmes, and bespoke immersion trips focused on identifying new markets and opportunities.

In collaboration with entities such as universities and entrepreneurship development agencies, she has also hosted events focused on the development of entrepreneurs and their businesses. 

“These discussion platforms allow us to not only establish our own brand in the minds of our target market, but also allow us the opportunity to source more clients whilst and how we can better serve our clients,” she says.  

Pearl Maphumulo, the founding managing director of the Business Development Agency (BDA). Image: Supplied.

“Entrepreneurship is about solving a problem.”  

This was the greatest takeaway from her time spent in 2013 studying entrepreneurship and business development at the Raymond Ackerman Academy based at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), Soweto campus.

There she learned, based on the book, Four Legs of the Table about administration, merchandising, promotion, and people, as well as, “how to manage cash, advertising, branding, and structuring a business”.   Four Legs of the Table was authored by now retired Pick n Pay founder Raymond Ackerman.

Maphumuloe says, “I had a lot of aha! moments.  I got to understand what entrepreneurship means.  I got to understand what solving a problem is. How to market a business to people.  Before just to hand out flyers was marketing to me.  I got to understand more about presentation, strategy and operations management.”

In January 2014, she registered her company, BDA, after graduating from the Ackerman academy.  “I got that aha! moment  to register BDA  while going through the Raymond Ackerman Academy.”

She went back to the Raymond Ackerman Academy at the UJ Centre for Small Business Development which allowed her to organise a seminar for young entrepreneurs.  

“UJ said you go ahead and plan it, and we will support it.  So, I organised the programme, marketed it on social media and that’s how I started building my network.  We had CNBC Africa come on board.  I was using the UJ brand. It wasn’t Pearl inviting you, but UJ,” says Maphumulo.  

Maphumulo, who prefers to wake up at 7.30am to 8am and can work until 2am the next morning, says a friend introduced her to the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Shapers:  “A community of young people around the world making a change in whatever community you’re in.”  

Maphumulo says we need to understand that entrepreneurs are not superhuman beings.

“What we overlook is that this is a human-being. Entrepreneurs get drained emotionally and psychologically.”

This  go-getter, who “learned from a very young age to be independent”,  says she regrets one thing:  “Not getting a mentor early enough. Having grown up in a dysfunctional family you think this is normal when it is not normal.” 

And she is upfront about going for counselling regularly.  

Ultimately, what drives Maphumulo is passion:  “I love what I do.  It does not feel like work.”   

Other loves:  “Dry lemon, good food, a good book - The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho  and Netflix on weekends.”  

Other loves:  “Dry lemon, good food, a good book - The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho  and Netflix on weekends.” 

Maphumul says:  “I believe that my purpose is empowering people economically through entrepreneurship.”  


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