JOHANNESBURG - Making a profit of more than R10 000 from selling firecrackers made Johannesburg entrepreneur Khethi Ngwenya realise business was the right avenue for him.
Ngwenya, 26, says the bug hit him at a very young age when he used to assist his aunt at her Dobsonville shop in Soweto. By the age of nine he says he was able to run the store in his aunt’s absence and take care of her customers needs.
Firecrackers, Ngwenya explains, were particularly profitable during the festive season, selling like hotcakes.
Ngwenya, who is the curator of the Johannesburg hub of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Shapers, decided to borrow money from her and started selling firecrackers for himself, earning him profits of over R10 000.
“That’s when I realised entrepreneurship is what I wanted to do. Obviously, I used some of the money to buy myself a BMX bicycle,” says Ngwenya, who was included in this year’s prestigious list of Forbes 30 under 30, and was nominated as a WEF global shaper in 2015.
Today Ngwenya is the managing director of 100 percent black-owned youth marketing agency SchoolMedia in Hyde Park, which turned over R5 million last year. Ngwenya, who matriculated from Jordao College, an independent high school in Turffontein in 2009, says he loved reading business books at school and was mostly inspired by Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson’s Screw It, Let’s Do It.
“That book left a lasting impression on me because of how Branson started out in business as a high school dropout, and also his love for extreme sports; his courage and confidence of just pushing yourself.”
Ngwenya recalls his mom introducing him to the Soweto Business Executive Chamber, which had a programme focused on young entrepreneurs, teaching them how to write proposals, among other things, when he was still at school.
He says this afforded him opportunities to write proposals to Pick ‘n Pay and MTN.
“When I finished school, told myself I’m not going to go back to class. I wanted to focus on entrepreneurship,” says Ngwenya. By the time he was 17, Ngwenya was already a trendsetter as the chief executive of the Young Entrepreneurs of Soweto, an organisation teaching young people how to start a business.
Ngwenya established SchoolMedia in 2010 and two years later, the company secured advertising rights in 9 000 schools across South Africa, affiliated to the National Association of School Governing Bodies.
“We rent space from the school to use their walls or bathrooms for brands to post information about their campaigns such as health and hygiene, bursaries, sports or as per the client’s brief. The advertising revenue goes back to uplifting the school,” Ngwenya says.
SchoolMedia clients include the department of defence and military veterans, power utility Eskom, the Castle of Good Hope, and German sports apparel company Adidas. Ngwenya says SchoolMedia targets a niche market that no one else is focusing on.
“We know that our market is small. We have got one direct competitor and by moving digital we don’t have competition in that space. According to StatsSA 26.6m of the population is below the age of 24, so you can see that we have got access to quite a huge number of the population. Some say the youth doesn’t have buying power, but who goes to buy bread and who decides on the brand name?”
He says their target this year is to double or triple the R5m turnover they achieved last year. Ngwenya, who says they are migrating to digital, says he works with a competent team which includes head of operations Jared Stern, projects manager Thami Gogela and executive assistant Motlatsi Selebi.
“School Media is moving digital and we have piloted a digital software at a school in Tembisa that allows brands to be able to communicate to pupils on their tablets. It’s in pilot phase and we hope to rollout it out to all Gauteng schools by early 2019.”
The company has done some campaigns in schools neighbouring Swaziland and Botswana. “Plans of expanding into Africa are in the pipeline. In fact before end of next year we would have expanded into some schools in Africa.
“In five years’ time, we want to be a mainstream marketing service dominating the space, being digital and operating across Africa,” says Ngwenya, who founded the Going Green Project in 2011 which educates schools on environmental awareness and has planted about 4 500 trees in schools across the country.
- BUSINESS REPORT