Siyanda Mthethwa, 34


Siyanda Mthethwa is the founder of a delivery service called Kuloola. The service helps residents to equip themselves with some of the most-needed groceries, such as cleaning supplies and hygiene products. Through his startup, nClude, Mthethwa came up with a mapping project which he then used to create the service, making life a little easier for people living in rural areas.

“Kuloola” comes from a take on “it’s easy” in Zulu and, through his work, Mthethwa has managed to make life much easier for people, by getting essential goods delivered direct to their doors. However, that doesn’t even cover half of the impact Mthethwa has had on rural communities. Through the service, he has also managed to create employment for many residents, especially young women.

He says this is among the achievements that make him proudest: being able to hire and sustain employment for 15 young people, predominantly women. With no prior management experience, he has been able to retain most of his staff because of “a strong and an inclusive management style”, he says. Mthethwa says being able to work towards improving the lives of people in his own community has also been a moment of pride for him. He says he was privileged to have access to opportunities and a good quality of life. It’s for that reason he wants to make a positive impact on the lives of people less fortunate than him.

“I am driven every day to wake up and develop products and services that bring equality and access to people in my community and beyond,” he says.

Author - Fatima Moosa
Philani Potwana, 32

Philani Potwana, 32

Chief executive officer

Philani Potwana is the person to thank for giving people the ability to withdraw money from their bank accounts without using their bank cards. The cashless withdrawal system led to FNB being named the most innovative bank in the world in 2012.

Having led the team that came up with the innovation, Potwana says he learned one of his most important lessons,

“acknowledging the team of people around me and that we are stronger together”.

He started his career at FNB straight after completing his bachelor’s degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and was chosen for the bank’s graduate programme. At the age of 20 he was appointed as a trainee systems analyst.

Potwana is FNB’s youngest chief executive and looks after the bank’s feeder base of customers earning up to R120 000 a year. He believes that growing up in rural Eastern Cape puts him in the best position to understand the needs of the bank’s customers. “We therefore have an incredible opportunity to educate and help them with their finances. This is not just a job for me,” he says.

He is interested in development, imparting financial management principles to consumers, and mentors learners in Alexandra, Johannesburg.

Thando Maeko |
Keshin Govender, 35

Keshin Govender, 35

Creative director, head of strategic initiatives

His growing list of accomplishments is impressive on its own, but it’s his drive and forward-thinking that make the Berlin-based Keshin Govender stand out. His job as creative director, head of strategic initiatives at the German multinational conglomerate Siemens brings with it the unique ability and responsibility to shape the future — not through the ways technology is used, but also through the transformation of Siemens’ content from a global perspective.

Govender is among a growing number of South Africans working in markets overseas but in an age where a global perspective is paramount to business success, the unique worldview and experience offered by talent from Africa is becoming more valuable.

Early in his career he realised it’s difficult to make a positive contribution by maintaining the status quo or only speaking when spoken to:

“To reinvent my environment I needed to bring diversity of thought and action to the boardroom,” Govender says.

The lessons learned in a cutthroat office environment informed him of the things that needed changing, both about the world of business and his personal development. He believes that by avoiding the trap of seeking perfection or validation people give themselves continuous opportunities to learn. Govender suggests, “acknowledge that what you know today is not as much as what you will know tomorrow”.

Speaking of tomorrow and shaping the future, Govender grasps the responsibility he has in sowing the seeds for a better world in which his daughter can grow up. “My hope is that the South African spirit of collective wellbeing and inventiveness is unleashed for the world to learn from. We have more to offer the world than we realise.”

Scott Dodds |
Koketso Moloko, 35

Koketso Moloko, 35

LMC Food Group

The life of a farmer isn’t an easy one, and starting a business comes with its own challenges, but Koketso Moloko has faced adversities head on. Her business, LMC Food Group, is a force of positive change for the rural economy in the Moloto City area near Rustenburg in North West.

Moloko established a solid business foundation in her studies, getting an economics degree at the University of Johannesburg and her honours through Unisa. This put her in prime position to let her entrepreneurial spirit take the reins, but it took years of experience and endless learning to get the LMC Food Group to where it is today. She alludes to the time she planted her sunflowers too late. “It made me a better farmer,” Moloko says.

She’s passionate about agriculture and wants to use it to develop the rural economy. Her accomplishments are getting her places, having been profiled by Living Land on SABC 2, winning the Making Moves entrepreneurship competition on SABC 1 and receiving the MEC award for top female farmer from the North West department of agriculture.

Scott Dodds |
Farirai Sanyika, 29

Farirai Sanyika, 29

Founder and director

As a chemical engineering graduate, Farirai Sanyika found her success as a travel entrepreneur a surprise — even to herself. But since kicking off the Gophari travel blog in 2017, Sanyika hasn’t looked back.

The travel blogger’s post-graduation trip to Mauritius sparked her travel obsession. While working and living in small industrial town of Secunda, Sanyika discovered the beauty of Mpumalanga and has since loved exploring South Africa. Through Gophari, Sanyika showcases South Africa, encouraging travelers to explore the country’s hidden gems.

Sanyika’s proudest moment was executing her first all-women group trip to Mauritius in 2018. Some group members enjoyed their first trip out of South Africa; others were glad to get out of their comfort zone with a different travel experience. She’s working on organising more group trips to give women a safe way to travel together as they build their travel confidence, and hopes to encourage others to consider using digital platforms to pursue their passions.

Starting Gophari has allowed Sanyika to harness her creativity and discover her love for digital marketing.

“Every morning I am driven to excel by my desire to be an example of it being possible and worthwhile to work on your passions and succeed. I have to be excellent to convey this message with conviction and tell young girls that when we say their dreams can come true it’s not a fairytale — it can actually happen,” Sanyika says.

Spend more time discovering your genius and strengths, she advises. Self-awareness allows you to focus on work that aligns with what you are most passionate about, and make the biggest impact.

Sanyika’s only regret is not having started Gophari earlier. She has since learned not to hesitate, but to fight distractions, affirm herself and focus on her goals.

Shaazia Ebrahim |
Cleo Anastasia Johnson, 28

Cleo Anastasia Johnson, 28

Founder and curator

Cleo Johnson quit her well-paying 9-to-5 in 2017 to start her hospitality consulting firm, Nuecleo, and has put in the hard work and self care to ensure she hasn’t had to look back since.

“Your health is your greatest asset and that includes your mental health. Learn to rest and not feel guilty for it. If you’re in it for the long haul, pausing is necessary.

Learn to be introspective, learn to read people and learn how to take criticism, these three things are vital for your growth.”

This approach has served her well – she’s worked with some of the largest players in the hospitality industry, from Marriott International, to Radisson Blu and The One & Only, and has used this invaluable experience to take local hotels from ideation to market.

“My aim is to change the face of the hospitality and tourism industry not only in South Africa but on the continent through commercial strategies, skills development, business intelligence and systems that take into consideration the 4th Industrial Revolution.”

While she’s passionate about building her brand, it’s not all about the money, and Cleo has strived to give back along the way.

“Business is not just about profits, but what you can do to lift others up”. Cleo has woven this belief into every aspect of her work, from supporting school feeding scheme CRC Cares, to starting her own initiative called Adopt a Block, which each week provides food to about 60 people in parts of Johannesburg.

“One of my proudest moment was summiting Kilimanjaro for Caring 4 Girls, a sanitary pad and sex education programme that’s part of the Imbumba Foundation. Knowing that I could stretch my body and mind under some extreme circumstances reinforced that I am capable of just about anything if I want it badly enough.”

Rosie Goddard |
Rod Tshidiso Leshaba, 30

Rod Tshidiso Leshaba, 30

Head: country and sovereign risk

Being appointed into the National Treasury Graduate Programme at the age of 19 after graduating from a previously disadvantaged university remains one of Rod Tshidiso Leshaba’s proudest moments.

Leshaba says it provided him with the opportunity to dispel myths around graduates from similar universities.
Graduating from the university and getting into the programme showed Leshaba he has what it takes to make it.

He says learning from his mistakes also helped him get to where he is. Leshaba says he learnt in life that one needs more than just long working hours and academic
excellence. “To be honest, I have worked very hard and strategically to avoid surprises in my career,” he says.

One of the biggest lessons Leshaba has learnt is about the importance of fostering and building relationships that add positively towards attaining future aspirations. He says it was important to surround himself with people who will help you to always help achieve the best you can.

“Importantly, at an individual level, always remain tenacious and consistent. Nothing is ever out of reach if you set your mind to it. Make giving and helping others a habit that you cannot live without,” he says.

The idea of helping others is something that is very dear to Leshaba: he hopes to be part of financing that provides capital to transformational sectors such as sports and arts.

Fatima Moosa |
Katleho Paballo Makupu, 26

Katleho Paballo Makupu, 26

Manager and philanthropist

Committing to a career early takes courage and hard work. That’s the case for Katleho Paballo Makupu, who applied to study actuarial science without fully knowing what it entailed. Today, she’s a consulting actuary and manager at EY Global Consulting, a technical member of the Actuarial Society and an award-winning philanthropist.

Her many accolades include winning the Carrol Boyes Fabulous Girl Foundation’s Girl of the Year, CEO Global’s Pan Africa award for Africa’s Most Influential Woman, the Youth Service and Excellence award from the Gauteng premier and the Association of South African Black Actuarial Professionals Inkanyezi award. She’s also featured on the task team for the International Microinsurance Conference, as a panelist at the South Africa InsurTech Conference and written for Motivation Activation, Risk Africa magazine and Cover magazine.

Makupu values the ability to be flexible, as well as learning, adapting and growing. She explains how “many young professionals, especially women, do not know what they are capable of until they are faced with a challenging scenario and gracefully overcome it”. The actuarial profession is built on sets of rules, but she knows when to question or rationalise why they shouldn’t always be followed. Standing out from the pack has allowed her to become the inspiration that she has to younger professional women.

She wants to use her experience and knowledge to give a platform to aspiring female professionals, mentoring and preparing them to take on leadership positions. Above that, she hopes to change the norms of business in South Africa.

“I envision a country where the human aspect is the core of the business’s existence. Where values, philanthropy, mentorship, collaboration, leadership, confidence and social impact are nonnegotiables.”

Scott Dodds |
Mamello Matikinca, 32

Mamello Matikinca, 32

Chief economist
First National Bank

When Mamello Matikinca became the chief economist at First National Bank at the age of 29, she became one of the youngest chief economists in South Africa’s history. Now, three years later, and recently appointed as a member of the president’s economic advisory council, her role has taken on some new considerations, particularly in light of Covid-19.

She says, “I have been humbled by the opportunities that have been afforded to me, some which I did not anticipate would come so early in my career. With that said one of the principals I’ve tried to live by is trying my best to be in a position to receive the opportunities. One of my favourite quotes from Oprah Winfrey that speaks to this point is: ‘Luck is preparation meeting opportunity. If you hadn’t been prepared when the opportunity came along, you wouldn’t have been lucky’.”

Her rise from student to macroeconomist to chief economist can be attributed to hard work, long hours, and a potent mix of ambition and motivation.

She says, “Being of service and the ability to help gives me a great sense of purpose. I am very fortunate that my profession affords me this. As we are all aware, the current pandemic has had a devastating impact on many lives and livelihoods.

“Part of my job is to help the organisation that I work for and our clients navigate through this difficult period.”

“I am fortunate to also be part of a group of renowned thought leaders who are thinking about what’s next for the country as we emerge from this crisis and working towards solutions that will change the course of the country for the better.”

Max Dylan Lazarus |
Mahlatse Mashao, 33

Mahlatse Mashao, 33

Owner and founder
Dipalesa Flowas

Starting a business fundamentally requires you to take a chance on yourself, and that’s exactly what Mahlatse Mashao had to do three years ago. It was while she was hospitalised that she found a well of motivation, launching Dipalesa Flowas as soon as she was released. The business offers intricate flower arrangements, luxury flowers, gifting and even has the option to create bespoke picnics for events. She hopes to rival South Africa’s bigger online florists soon.

Her passion for flowers and gardening began early; she was always lending a hand after school. Once Mashao had established her online store, the first customers came from Twitter. She recognised the value of the online community and their desire to support local, female and black-owned businesses. The burst of business from social media then trickled into word-of-mouth and before she knew it, her first business was on its way to success. She is also extremely proud of the fact that her store is the first to deliver to all areas of Gauteng, including the townships. Her inspiring story even landed her an interview on SABC News. What makes this all so much more impressive is that she ran the business while she had another, full-time job.

She knows the success of her business is tied to hard work, but Mashao’s work ethic comes from her passion.

“There were days that I would forget that I have a negative bank balance. Making that one delivery at a time was, and still is, fulfilling for me,” she explains.

Without the risk she took, the business wouldn’t be where it’s at today, and she hopes she can leave a legacy that inspires a new generation to do the same.

Scott Dodds |
Musa Maluleka, 20

Musa Maluleka, 20

Founder and owner

Disktjie is South African township slang for football. It is also the name for the year old soccer boot brand created by 19-year-old Musa Maluleka. The Pretoria born Maluleka started the brand while completing his final year of high school. He had been raising the capital to start the business since his primary school days, between playing soccer on the dusty gravel roads of Atteridgeville township.

Maluleka wanted to create affordable shoes that are durable enough to handle the toughests of terrains.

The teen entrepreneur is a self-confessed competitor who is “a winner at heart.” He has been recognised on various media platforms for his achievements and has also won entrepreneurship awards including EDHE Intervarsity-General Existing Business, Can Do Unbreakable Entrepreneurs 2019 winner, EO Global Students Entrepreneurs Awards South Africa national winner — and he is going to represent South Africa in the global awards.

“I live by the mantra that I am constantly chasing my hero, who is me in the next 10 years,” he says.

Thando Maeko |
Harmony Mothibe, 32

Harmony Mothibe, 32

Founder and operations director

Harmony Mothibe is making waves in the tech field. He is the founder and operations director at research and development company BotsZA. The firm specialises in applications powered by artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation and chatbots.

Mothibe says he wakes up every morning with an attitude of winning, the desire to solve problems and to add value to society. When he sees his company’s products and services being used — such as the chatbot Hazie, which is a job placement bot that connects job seekers and recruiters — it gives him strength to keep working harder.

His work has brought him many proud moments.

In 2019, his company was selected by IBM as one of the top seven tech startups to participate in the IBM techscale programme. This opportunity opened doors and opportunities in the tech industry.

Mothibe was also invited as an expert by the United Nations in 2017 to participate in a government experts convention on Lethal Autonomous Weapons. He took part in a panel discussion on entrepreneurial perspectives for emerging technologies in the field of artificial intelligence and autonomous systems.

He would like to see more young people involved in emerging technologies in the field of artificial intelligence, automation and chatbots.

“I believe people can do extraordinary things if given an opportunity.”

Mothibe’s success is grounded in his curiosity. “The tech industry changes very rapidly and one needs to adapt quickly and keep up with the trends otherwise one will miss the train or become irrelevant.”

Shaazia Ebrahim |
Olebogeng Sentsho, 33

Olebogeng Sentsho, 33

Chief Executive Officer
Simba Mgodi Mining Incubation Fund

“Had I known that developing a passion would lead to holistic fulfilment, I would have been in the mining industry sooner,” says Olebogeng Sentsho. Sentsho is a mining and energy entrepreneur. She is the Chief Executive Officer at The Simba Mgodi Mining Incubation Fund, a development fund that supports emerging entrepreneurs in mining and mining services.

She holds a LLB degree and an Msc. in Mining Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Sentsho is passionate about the potential of the mining industry to drive growth and development in South Africa.

“By harnessing the power of mining as an economic catalyst, we can change the economic trajectory of South Africa and enable our nation to thrive through industrialisation and manufacturing,” she says.

She has been featured on various local and domestic media platforms for her work in the mining sector. Sentsho is a recipient of the inaugural “Outstanding woman in Mining Award” at the Youth in Mining Business awards in 2016, the Winner of the “Leaders of Tomorrow” Award at the 2019 Mining Indaba and a nominee of the rising star at the Mines and Money Conference
London. She is also the Head of the Mining and Technical Engineering Services Sector at the Progressive Youth in Business Organisation and the National Convenor of the 2019 Youth in Mining Procurement Transformation Summit.

Thando Maeko |
Mpho Jan Kubeka, 21

Mpho Jan Kubeka, 21

Machine learning engineer and founder
Kube Industries

Modern technology is at a novel point in development, with the now better understood artificial intelligence and machine learning becoming a viable tool for businesses in a variety of industries. 21-year-old Mpho Kubeka is a Machine Learning Engineer and Founder of Kube Industries, his own startup that uses advanced technology in creative ways to provide solutions for his clients. He’s hoping to use technology to improve the lives of South Africans by incorporating it into as many aspects of daily life as possible.

Kubeka recognised the importance of technology from a young age and credits being part of the winning team at a hackathon hosted at the Tshimologong Digital Precinct as a defining moment for him in motivating him to dive head first into coding. He knows the value in finding the right method of learning, explaining how some people prefer to learn from books, others find what they’re looking for in tutorial videos.

Launching his startup was the result of Kubeka realising that organisations that can benefit greatly from machine learning and data science often only hire on a temporary consultancy basis, and wanted to offer that service. It’s his hope to become a driving force for technological change, noting that South Africans aren’t benefiting as much as countries in other parts of the world.

Kubeka believes there is plenty of local talent that can produce creative solutions to specifically local problems. Improving education, telecommunications, healthcare and more vital industries can have widespread positive impact. As he explains,”if my work can unlock a higher level of life for South Africans, that would be a good indicator of my impact.”

Scott Dodds |
Katlego Letsoalo, 30

Katlego Letsoalo, 30

Monitoring and evaluation specialist
Minerals Council South Africa

The Minerals Council South Africa is a mining industry employers’ organisation, which exists to serve their members and promote their interests, and it’s here that Katlego Letsoalo is using his position as monitoring and evaluation specialist to reshape the perception of mining and its relationship with mining communities.

It’s a unique role, requiring him to move between the field and the office, assisting mines to operate safely or helping graduates to find training and employment in the mining sector. One might consider him lucky, as his personal goal and job responsibilities are truly aligned, but Letsoalo and his journey emphasise the importance of continuous learning.

At the moment he’s awaiting the results of his engineering master’s thesis on mineral economics; was identified as one of 23 future leaders in African extraction and development by the University of Cape Town; and successfully lead a team of young professionals who tackle various challenges experienced in the mining industry in Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

A career highlight was being nominated by the Minerals Council and Business Unity South Africa to represent employer organisations at the 2019 International Labour Organisation Global Youth Employment Forum in Nigeria, looking at the global challenge of unemployment and possible policy interventions.

They’re not all academic lessons, Letsoalo explains: he’s witnessed firsthand the dangers of mining, because his position requires him to evaluate and monitor the work of others.

“People should be given the freedom to do their work, but this should be followed by adequate support and oversight,” Letsoalo advises, with insight that only comes with experience.

It’s this experience he hopes to use to help people to realise the true meaning of shared value and responsible mining, as well as offering mining communities and young people the skills development they need.

Scott Dodds |
Mpumelelo Mtintso, 31

Mpumelelo Mtintso, 31

Founder, marketing director, cyclist

Book iBhoni is as good an example as you’ll find of turning one’s passion into a positive enterprise. Mpumelelo Mtintso, its founder and marketing director, developed a savvy and altruistic business model: he offers discounted bicycle tours in exchange for books, which are donated to schools and libraries across his community.

Through this model, Mtintso has found a way to build a business, inspire healthy lifestyles through cycling and exercise, and give directly back to his community. He says, “My proudest moment was being named as part of the Top 10 Best Bicycle Tour Operators in Soweto by TripAdvisor, being listed on Airbnb Experiences and having my bicycle-tour company associated with the South African professional cycling team, CyclingBox Racing Team. There are too many proud moments to just mention one.”

As for surprises encountered along the way, the answer is sadly not unexpected: “Covid-19, what more can one say? This caused the collapse in the tourism industry that no one saw coming.” However, Mtintso and Book iBhoni remain flexible and optimistic, adjusting their model to provide courier services in the areas they know best until the tourism industry picks up again.

His advice to young entrepreneurs is one of patience. “Give yourself time to plan. Do not rush: entrepreneurship is a journey,” Mtintso says. “There are a lot of returns that come with better planning and research before embarking on changes in the business.”

Even with setbacks such as the pandemic, the legacy Mtintso would like to leave remains on track: “[I’d like to see] greater social impact, with job creation and the elevation of small businesses in communities like Soweto, [as well as] the increased awareness around literacy for children and adults along with the benefits of cycling and bicycles as a mode of transport and business.”

Max Dylan Lazarus |
Hope Ditlhakanyane, 24

Hope Ditlhakanyane, 24

Venture partner
MEST Africa

Hope Ditlhakanyane says she feels strongly about changing the injustices faced by women, both in the workplace and entrepreneurship space. The 24-year-old is a Venture Partner at Mest Africa.

Ditlhakanyane says although she sees plenty of talent in her field of private equity and venture capital, there just aren’t enough opportunities available. She feels strongly about changing this, especially for women. More than that Ditlhakanyane believes that, through her experiences, she is uniquely positioned to provide a solution — this is something she is truly passionate about.

“My greatest passion is where business and empowerment of women intersect,” Ditlhakanyane says. One of the major problems she has identified is that women remain underrepresented in various leadership roles within business and greater society.

Therefore, when she was accepted for the role as a venture partner for one of the largest Pan-African organisations training and funding tech entrepreneurs, this was a moment of pride. It didn’t mean a lot only to her, but for what she could achieve for others from her platform.

Ditlhakanyane has launched a successful women-empowerment platform, called Superwoman Hub, which has been crucial in ensuring she has a leading role in driving gender equity and the democratisation of investment opportunities for women in South Africa and the rest of Africa. The platform is active on YouTube and LinkedIn.

Even though Ditlhakanyane has achieved so much already, she knows all too well that it’s easier to become overwhelmed with the many issues facing the world. Her advice to herself and others is to “start small while thinking big”. She says that it was important for her to write a new narrative of what she wanted to achieve and then go out and do it.

Fatima Moosa |
Velani Valentine Mboweni, 28

Velani Valentine Mboweni, 28

Entrepreneur, co-founder and chief executive

Velani Mboweni is the co-founder of LULA, a ride-share shuttle service.

But now businesses have shut their doors, people have lost their jobs and others have taken salary cuts as a result of Covid-19 regulations to prevent the spread of the disease. Keeping his company afloat during this time, without having to lay off staff, and adding a new product line during these trying times is something that Mboweni is most proud of.

Mboweni, who has a BCom from the University of Cape Town, a BA Honours from the University of Witwatersrand
and a postgraduate diploma in business administration from Wits Business School, says he’s surprised himself with the fact that his business is still standing successfully.

In the time of the Covid-19, LULA has been transporting essential service workers and delivering and collecting goods for those people isolating at home.

His company offers something unique in the transport services businesses: it groups riders who live in one area and are travelling to a similar destination at the same time, saving people time and reducing the number of cars on the road during peak hours.

The business model led to Harvard Business School writing a three-part study on LULA. Last year the company won the Startup of the Year in Africa at the The Global Startup Awards.

LULA might be reaching greater heights today but it has not always been like this. Mboweni says at the start he learned tough lessons from struggles that he now attributes to wanting to be everything to everyone.

The urgency of addressing the many societal problems keeps Mboweni going.

“God has given me life and the tools to address them, and so for as long as I am alive and well, I will continue using every morning to solve problems and serve people.”

Bongekile Macupe |
Zizipho Ntobongwana, 26

Zizipho Ntobongwana, 26

Founder and managing director
Sheba Feminine

The average person who menstruates will spend between R15 000 and R25 000 on sanitary products in their lifetime. And more often than not, those products are harmful effects to a person’s health and the environment.

Zizipho Ntobongwana, who has a Bachelor of Social Science and honours in African studies from the University of Cape Town, started Sheba Feminine in 2017 to undo some of the damage done by the multi-billion dollar industry. Sheba Feminine’s organic cotton and biodegradable products contribute to living sustainably.

“I would like to see higher expectations placed on the companies producing these products,” Ntobongwana says, adding that they should be transparent about what goes into making tampons and sanitary pads.

But Ntobongwana’s interests lie beyond conscious consumerism. She is also passionate about reproductive and sexual health and works to remove the shame associated with these subjects. This means using her platform “to break taboos, shutter stigmas and to normalise a different and revolutionary conversation”. The Sheba Feminine blog helps readers make informed decisions about their health and their effect on the environment.

Ntobongwana says making her first sale at Sheba Feminine has been her biggest accomplishment so far. “It felt like all of that time, love and effort had finally culminated into something tangible.”

The company is an important part of the conversation Ntobongwana wants to start. But it is also just the beginning. “The possibilities are endless with what I can achieve and change,” she says.

Sarah Smit |
Palesa Moloi, 27

Palesa Moloi, 27

Chief executive officer

As the chief executive and co-founder of ParkUpp, Palesa Moloi has achieved what many of us have dreamed of — a solution for parking chaos.

The service concept is simple — connecting drivers to unused parking spaces in private lots, empty driveways or big corporate garages. But just because the concept is simple, execution is not that easy. And when obstacles arise, innovation follows, as can be seen with ParkUpp now using their services to introduce drive-in cinemas during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Moloi is frank about the difficulties that come up on the path to success.

“Failure is good, very good — as long as you learn from it and use it as a stepping stone to success. Also, our ideas are initially very wrong, so stay long enough in the game to chip away at the things that do not work. Resilience is key.”

This resilience has led Moloi to success in recent years, including contracts with one of the biggest property funds in the country, a trip to Silicon Valley with four other startups and awards from the South African Institute of Black Property Practitioners and the Women’s Property Network.

Moloi says the property industry has been receptive to ParkUpp’s service, with growth in its network — often through clients referring the business to other clients — being pivotal to the success of the company.

Moloi’s long-term goals are big: “My Big Hairy Audacious Goal is to build a globally scalable business. The trips to the US have been for us to build strategic partners on other continents. My desired impact is to build a company that provides opportunities of employment on a global scale while inspiring other young people that they too can aspire to build companies.”

Max Dylan Lazarus |
Jaryd Hermann, 26

Jaryd Hermann, 26


At just 26, Jaryd Hermann has a lot to be proud of when it comes to his career, but it’s been his ability to harness his self-awareness that’s really led to personal and professional break-throughs.

“My proudest moment was when I realised that I was in control of my work, interests and hobbies, and not the other way around. I struggled with obsessive behaviour, always pushing to get more done, check things off my agenda, or squeeze in another hour. And, if I fell short of my self-imposed obligations, I’d beat myself up about it. I found my best work, and the work I enjoyed most, came when I noticed my behaviour and thought patterns, and through lots of practice, liberated myself from this form of control I had put on myself.”

This shift in behaviour has accompanied the success of his company WECAST — a digital talent agency that links consumers and suppliers in the film industry, circumnavigating agency costs. Founded in 2018 and already doing exceptionally well, the company has expanded to New York, but the success has brought on some personal achievements for Hermann too: he is a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council, has spoken at the Microsoft offices and has written for the likes of Forbes, Inc. and GQ.

“Truly realising that nothing happens as you expect and that holding to expectations too long can be dangerous. I believed in myself as a founder and my business unequivocally and had a vision for what the path and end-state were going to be. Not one thing turned out that way, and that was a good thing. Things worked out, but in other ways that I would never have thought possible, and if I wasn’t flexible with my expectations, I’m certain I wouldn’t have been so lucky.”

Rosie Goddard |
Mtho Xulu, 33

Mtho Xulu, 33

South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Navigating the economic collapse triggered by the Covid-19 lockdown has given the already Mtho Xulu an even greater public role.

He’s a high court advocate, the chief executive of JSX Investments, president of the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and a director of both the Small Enterprise Development Agency and Business Unity South Africa.

With the lockdown hit the economy, Xulu stepped up to urge the government to do more to help small businesses survive. He called for an agile public private partnership framework for infrastructure development, making the investment environment more competitive to encourage the private sector, and additional support for small and medium enterprises through democratising the market.

That all built on his long-existing goal of working to make South Africa a first world country by 2050.

“The biggest surprise has been how my views on economic development and social construct have been positively embraced, both domestically and internationally,” he says.

Xulu, whose advice includes mutually beneficial outcomes, believes he is listened to because he understands the implications of his opinions and delivers them in a professional manner.

Xulu earned his law degree through distance learning, and was admitted as an advocate of the high court in 2011. “My proudest moment was the completion of my Bachelor of Law degree from Unisa by means of a distance learning programme. This experience honed my skills in terms of discipline, self-reliance and independent thinking,” he says. “I’ve carried these skills into my own businesses and my role as the leader of organised business.”

On the entrepreneurial side, he’s the founder of JSX Investments, which has interests in property, technology, transport, cable manufacturing, construction, horticulture and mining.

Lesley Stones |
Uzair Essack, 28

Uzair Essack, 28

Managing director and founder

We’re told that start-ups need to skyrocket to success or risk becoming obsolete, but Uzair Essack has proven that starting small and building up gradually can lead to a bright future.

The Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 and Entrepreneur of the Year is the founder of CapeCrops, a company that exports fresh fruit and vegetables to more than 32 countries. It hasn’t been smooth sailing to the top — a deal that went wrong plunged him into R1-million debt at the age of 24 – but he has learned from every failure, coming out the other side a savvy entrepreneur.

Essack has always been an entrepreneur — while still at the University of Cape Town doing a Bcom in management studies, he imported rice from India and Pakistan, but the oversaturated market meant he wasn’t getting the margins he had hoped for. He pivoted to exports, which meant he could also earn in foreign currency, and his business was born.

There have been stumbling blocks along the way, but he has learned by doing, and believes that failure goes with success:

“It’s not about how many times you fail or how big the failures are, but rather, how many times you overcome those failures and how much you learn from them.”

He is the first to sing the praises of a career in agriculture: “I want to see more of the youth get involved in agriculture as it is an extremely lucrative and fulfilling profession. Growth in agriculture will create more jobs and boost the economy.”

Rosie Goddard |
Adam Duxbury, 29

Adam Duxbury, 29

CEO and founder, Chief of Staff
Granadilla, Yoco

Few people ever launch four companies in their entire lives, let alone before the age of 30.

Adam Duxbury has achieved that, though, and in widely varied fields. There’s Granadilla Swim, a fashion label; Rooftop on Bree, an event space in Cape Town; and Sunn Kombucha, brewing fermented drinks. His latest is Granadilla Eats, launched in March 2020 ahead of the Covid-19 crisis as an online platform to help small businesses deliver groceries.

“When the lockdown began everything changed. Retail had come to a standstill and we knew we needed to act fast to survive the pandemic and economic recession,” he says. Granadilla Swim and Sunn Kombucha were at risk of collapsing, so within 48 hours a fresh food delivery service was born.

With the help of his existing Granadilla team and Kombucha factory, he partnered with farmers and small local businesses to start delivering food as an essential services provider. “We realised our assets could be pooled to help other small businesses,” he says. “By the time lockdown began we had delivered over 500 fresh boxes of food to people’s homes. A wonderful learning was that swift, innovative thinking can allow you to turn a potentially negative situation into a positive one.”

Along the way he’s learned vital lessons. The mistake of renting expensive premises for a Granadilla Swim store almost bankrupted him. Only later did he learn to get user feedback before developing a final product to check if there’s enough demand.

Duxbury is also Chief of Staff for Yoco, a financial platform that builds tools to help small businesses get paid and run more efficiently.

Despite all those achievements, his proudest moment is more personal — completing a gruelling Ironman. “I’ve never felt prouder of myself, and I learnt that I was capable of so much more than I ever could have imagined.”

Lesley Stones |
Rajiv Daya, 32

Rajiv Daya, 32

Head of investments
Founders Factory Africa

Rajiv Daya began his career in management consulting and investment banking and expected to move into private equity. However, after turning down a move to London for Nairobi, he decided to focus on access to finance for small to medium-sized enterprises instead.

This unexpected change resulted in a complete shift in his personal and professional outlook and philosophy. Daya says if he had moved to London, he would never have had the exposure and learnt so much.

“I now spend my time combining these worlds in a way that inspires me and allows me to use the skills I have developed in a more meaningful way with aspiring entrepreneurs,” he says.

The move to Nairobi wasn’t the first time that Daya learnt something unexpected about himself and the world. He attended Oxford University to learn more about global thought leadership, expecting to absorb knowledge from countries such as the United States, Japan and China. Instead, he came out of his study experience with an appreciation for South African and African capability.

“This pride gave me a newfound sense of appreciation for the experience that we have gained on the continent and how we are building a generation of leaders, despite the subdued backdrop of criticism,” he says.

Daya says he wants to contribute to a South Africa that recognises both challenges and opportunities, and is better equipped to manage these. He says a culture of learning needs to be fostered, which will help to create a more level playing field, through challenging the status quo in social, political and economic structures.

“The goal is for my work to have an impact in creating a more level playing field, at first, and then, over time, to be more directly focused on the holistic education and learning experience,” he says.

Fatima Moosa |