Unleashing Unexpected Potential
-By: Katlego Llale
Sometimes we find our potential in the least expected ways. That’s exactly what happened to Tebogo Mogakwe (25)—who successfully implemented his own small business when he had firmly believed he could never follow such a path. All he wanted was to actively bring change into communities around him, but never imagined he would be able to do so through entrepreneurship.
He spent a great deal of his post-secondary school years involved in community safety and volunteering with police services. Prior to being part of the enke: Catalyst program, he was actively involved on a voluntary basis with the Youth Crime Prevention Desk. He was then presented with the opportunity to participate in a leadership program for youth who are not in employment, education or training (NEETs). “A colleague who had seen my capabilities encouraged me to apply for the enke: Catalyst program, affirming me that they think it would be a great program for me,” recalls Tebogo.
One of the components of the enke: Catalyst program is to give its participants practical skills and experience in running their own businesses and projects. Reflecting on this, Tebogo says he remembers how “I was feeling quite daunted when they said we would have to run our own EAPs (Enterprise Action Projects). I knew nothing about running any sort of business”. Before he became part of enke, Tebogo was convinced he had no entrepreneurial flare. According to him, “not all of us can be entrepreneurs”—including himself. He reiterated how he was simply content with just being a buyer and consumer. However, this narrative soon changed for him.
Three months into Tebogo’s journey with enke, his uncle, after having heard of what he is being equipped with in the Catalyst program, asked him to assist with starting a new business as a means to test and put to use all his learnings. Tebogo eagerly took the leap, utilised some of the concepts he had been introduced to through enke and established a restaurant in Ratanda—a small, township located in Heidelberg.
“I did not think I would pull it off,” Tebogo expresses. “I thought after two weeks the business would fail”. He was of the belief that running and managing one’s own business requires schooling. It dawned upon him along the way that he had all the resources he needed to successfully run and manage his own small business. Pondering on this realisation, he says, “I was fortunate to have a really strong support system, some of the individuals who inspired and pushed me into seizing this moment were other fellow enke: Catalyst participants who have become like family to me. The content enke created for us through the program also contributed so much in assisting me to deal with the practicalities of successfully running and managing a business at first attempt.”
Tebogo went out to the community of Ratanda to identify some of their most imminent needs, being a remotely quiet area, he recognized the residents’ need for entertainment and food. This is where the idea came up of creating a food restaurant where customers could sit in a pleasant, spacious outdoor area while enjoying their food and beverages, with good music for entertainment in the background.
The restaurant, known as, Prilesh, is highly supported by the community, it has been one of the few shops in the community that operates till late in the relatively small, closed community. It allows residents and customers to have a place of their own to lay back and relax after long days of work in the surrounding farms. The community’s appreciation for this new entertainment spot is reflected in its tremendous growth. “The business grew from less than 50 customers a day to more than 200 customers—and doubled on weekends—within two months of its running,” he says.
Reflecting on his journey with enke, Tebogo expresses how his success in implementing the local restaurant was largely contributed by the enke staff and the support that they gave him by continuously encouraging him to get out of his comfort zone. “enke has the most supportive facilitating staff who walk alongside us to realise our fullest potential as young people,” he affirms warm-heartedly. Tebogo has identified strengths in himself he was never aware of. He has since become determined to start running more businesses that add value to those around him.