Meet SAPOA’s President Elect, lpeleng Mkhari, founder and CEO of Motseng Investment Holdings.
Mkhari has been an entrepreneur for two decades and has been on the receiving end of many an accolade, including Cosmopolitan’s Mover of the Year Award in 2006, CEO Magazine’s Most Influential Women in Business in 2008, and Forbes Woman Africa’s Pioneer Woman of the Year Award in 2015.
“In business you lose, you win, but you lose more than you win, but you’re satisfied with that, because you’re learning,” Ipeleng says, as she reflects on her entrepreneurial journey. “It takes a special breed of human being to be an entrepreneur. I get people who say they want to be like me, but you weren’t there when I had no money, or when I couldn’t replace my car tyres because they were so smooth. You don’t know that story.”
Born in Umlazi, KwaZulu-Natal, along the east coast of South Africa, Ipeleng had a good start in life; her mother was a doctor, her father an attorney, and she was taught invaluable lessons in professionalism and entrepreneurship. Most importantly, she was taught to have confidence, and was unconditionally supported by her family. She says: “Affirmation and confidence are two peas in a pod. If you are an affirmed individual, by those who love you, it boosts your confidence and tells you that you are good at something. One of the most fundamental ingredients in life is confidence. When I started my business I was confident enough to walk into scary situations, but I would open my mouth, set about presenting the story of my life and why I needed their business. No schooling system can teach you that but you need that affirmation at home, from people who believe in you.”
Mkhari completed her studies in Industrial Psychology and Sociology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 1996. During university holidays, she worked for Eskom’s marketing department, which gave her a solid introduction to, and appetite for, the business world. Fresh out of university, she landed a job as marketing director at Phosa Iso CCTV – an electronic security systems company.
“When I met the owners of the company, the power question the gentlemen asked me was, ‘Do you want to be an employer or do you want to be an employee?’ I said I want to be an employer.” Her entrepreneurial skills served as a catalyst for her black economic empowerment partnership with the company, and less than a year later, she started her own CCTV business.
“I operated out of my father’s study in the beginning. I landed a CCTV contract with Kunene Brothers and with no credit and no money to buy equipment I had to get bridging finance. I approached one of the banks and said ‘Here I am, with a business plan and a contract.’ The contract was what secured the finance. The bank was also impressed that I had something other than a hair salon or a catering business in mind. I had to pay the money back within a month, so I made sure the installation was absolutely perfect.” The proceeds from this particular first deal served as the seed capital for Motseng. And the rest is history.
At 23, Mkhari attended meetings, often being the only young, black woman amongst groups of well-established, older business men with years of experience in their fields. Instead of being intimidated, she embraced the challenge head on. She says when speaking about this time in her journey, “When you are 23, you look and sound young and it takes a lot to convince people you are serious. It was hugely interesting to go to tender meetings where I was the only black woman present. But I had an idea and a car, and I was ready to take on the challenges. As an entrepreneur you have to remember that success requires sacrifice and hard work – don’t ever believe anyone who tells you different. There is no success without struggle.”
“Success is a terrible teacher,” she quotes self-made billionaire, Bill Gates.
In September 1998 she teamed up with former schoolmate and friend, Sandile Nomvete, to found Motseng Investment Holdings and currently owns 70% of the shares in this solely black-owned property management company. When asked what her biggest achievement is, she reminds that there is no single achievement, but that achievement lies in the journey as an entrepreneur.
“We are creating a legacy. I want to be able to influence the way South Africans do business, and inspire young people to crack it in the business world. We are a good example to others. We have created a business that will survive without us. Today we have the right synergies, the right people.”
Ipeleng Mkhari is not only a formidable business woman, a visionary entrepreneur and an inspirational leader, but also the wife of media mogul Gavin Mkhari, and the mother of four daughters. With a penchant for taking calculated risks and an insatiable appetite for the development of young, female entrepreneurs, it is not only apt, but serendipitous to have Ipeleng Mkhari as Master Investor in this Women’s Month issue.