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’I saved my NSFAS allowance money to start a business’

Tholulwazi Reconciliator Phungula used his financial aid scheme to start a business. Picture: Supplied

Tholulwazi Reconciliator Phungula used his financial aid scheme to start a business. Picture: Supplied

Published Oct 12, 2021


Johannesburg - Many people have dreams of one day starting a business, but a lack of funding deters them.

To succeed in business, you need to think outside the box and develop unique and innovative ways to solve challenges you might face.

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It’s the same with starting a business from scratch.

While a lack of funding might kill dreams and ideas, some entrepreneurs have found ways to raise the necessary capital.

Tholulwazi Reconciliator Phungula, 29, opted not to spend his National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) monthly allowance, but to save it to start a business.

Almost three years later, he has achieved his dream, and now owns a business that produces watches.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Phungula recalls how he has always been fascinated by business, and in 2019 he finally decided to take the leap of faith and start TRP.

“I always wanted to start the business, but I struggled with funding. When I arrived at the Vaal University of Technology, I was exposed to the NSFAS money and the allowances we get from it,” he said.

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“I decided not to spend all of my allowances and decided to save it because I had a vision, and I knew what I wanted to do.

“It gave me the needed capital of R8 000 to get my first batch of watches,” he said.

Phungula set himself a target of five years to establish himself and the business but little did he know that Covid-19 would wreak havoc throughout the world the following year.

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Like many businesses, the pandemic affected his start-up company and is eating into his small profits.

But that has not demoralised him, and in fact, it has galvanised him to dream even bigger.

“Shipping prices have increased drastically. We are currently struggling to make profits due to that, but we remain hopeful that they will drop one of these days and return to making decent profits,” he said.

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Phungula wants a factory in South Africa to make the watches and create job opportunities for locals.

“We want to create jobs in South Africa, but we know it's going to take us some time,” he said.

Being a young entrepreneur with no business training also has other challenges.

One of the biggest is managing the finances and the books, something Phungula has been struggling with.

“I have been struggling with the financial aspect of the business. I’m having a difficult time with bookkeeping.

“At times we fail to capture the sales we make, and this significantly affects how things happen and how we operate,” he said.

The young man also spoke about the pain he felt at the beginning when people were mocking him for choosing his initials as the name of the watch.

Had as it was, he decided to keep his head up and told himself he wanted to be like his idol, Tshepo Mohlahla of Tshepo Jean.

“Many asked how I could name the watches after my initials.

“But I was inspired by Tshepo Jeans after struggling to come up with a name for the longest time,” he said.

With regards to the future, Phungula wants to see his watches in some of the country's leading retail stores.

He said he has set himself a time frame of five years to achieve his goal.

“I’m currently working at home, but I plan to get an office to operate from and then find my way into shops such as Markham even though I don’t know how to go about that.

“I want to see TRP in those big shops where people would be buying the watch because they love how it looks and not just because they know you from the township,” Phungula said.

To aspiring entrepreneurs, he said the most important thing in business is to start.

“We all know that capital is challenging, but we also need to play our part by doing the leg work while searching for that capital.

“We can no longer wait for the government or someone to fund an idea.

“Everyone wants to get involved in something already running, which shows that you have also invested in that idea because you believe in it.

“And when you make money, invest that back into the business so that it can grow,” he said.

[email protected]

Sunday Independent