Bud­ding en­tre­pre­neur dreams big

Lesotho Times - - Business -

RIS­ING en­tre­pre­neur Makhetha Thaele last Fri­day opened a fuel sta­tion and a con­ve­nience shop in Litha­ba­neng;itha­ba­neng; a feat rarely achieved by manyny of his peers. The man who grew up sell­ingng milk and veg­eta-veg­eta­bles go­ing from door to do­or­door had the spirit of en­trepreneur­ship em­bed­dedbed­ded in him at a ten­der age. He plans too ex­pand the petro-petroleum fuel business aroundund the coun­try and beyond the na­tional bor­der­srders as he con­tin-con­tin­ues on his jour­ney to be­com­ing­be­com­ing a commu-com­mu­nity builder. He has found­e­dunded and op­er­ates MF Hold­ings, a busi­nessss brand that has in­ter­ests in ac­count­ing,unt­ing, con-con­struc­tion, petroleum fuel,el, and of­fice sup­plies among oth­ers.s. Aged 37, Mr Thaele is also a boar­d­ard mem­ber of the Le­sotho Na­tion­alal De­velop-de­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (LNDC).DC). In this wide-rang­ing in­ter­view, Mr Thaele (MT) talks to Le­sotho Times (LT) business re­porter Berengng Mpaki about his long jour­ney to be­com-be­com­ing a busi­ness­man of note.ote.

LT: Who Thaele?

is

Makhetha khetha

MT: I am a Mosotho man born and bred in Qoalal­ing, in Maseru. I am thee son of ‘m’e ‘Ma­makhe- tha Thaele and ntate Marake Thae­leas well as brother to Mahlape and Motšoanyane. I am also hus­band to ‘m’e ‘Mat­lotlisang Thaele and fa­ther to a son Lipholo and a daugh­ter Tlotlisang.

I at­tended St James Pri­mary and pro­ceeded to Leribe High school which I credit for the foun­da­tion to what I have be­come to­day. I stud­ied ac­count­ing at the Cen­tre of Ac­count­ing Stud­ies.

LT: How and when did you ven­ture into business?

MT: I worked at dif­fer­ent places af­ter com­plet­ing my stud­ies. First I worked as a vol­un­teer teach­ing business ed­u­ca­tion and ac­count­ing at Qoal­ing Com­mu­nity High School from 2000 to 2002. The rea­son I went into teach­ing was to gain some work ex­pe­ri­ence.

Then I worked for Le­sotho Fund for Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment un­til 2004 where I cov­ered dis­tricts such as Mafeteng, Thaba Tseka, Qacha’s Nek and Mo­hale’s Hoek. From there I worked at the Le­sotho Rev­enue Author­ity (LRA) from 2004 to 2009.

It was dur­ing this time that I de­vel­oped an in­ter­est in business. So I be­came a taxi owner through the sav­ings that I had ac­cu­mu­lated from work. The business was not suc­cess­ful be­cause I used up the rev­enue in­stead of sav­ing it.

Af­ter five years I left LRA to pur­sue self-em­ploy­ment. At that time I still re­mem­ber I had M2 500 to start a business en­ter­prise. I used that money to reg­is­ter a com­pany and to ac­quire a trad­ing li­cense to be an of­fice sup­plier. This was a thriv­ing business op­por­tu­nity at the time.

As an ac­coun­tant, I then ac­quired a prac­tic­ing cer­tifi­cate from the Le­sotho In­sti­tute of Ac­coun­tants and added ac­coun­tancy con­sul­tancy ser­vices to my business pro­file. At first I strug­gled to get clients for my ser- vices, but I took a de­ci­sion to visit po­ten­tial clients to mar­ket my business.

The clients that sup­ported me were from the public trans­port in­dus­try, some of whom I knew from my pre­vi­ous in­volve­ment in the business. Over time, I no­ticed that the ac­count­ing business had a business cy­cle that peaked dur­ing tax re­turns fill­ing sea­son be­tween April and June be­fore ta­per­ing off for the rest of the year. So I had to find al­ter­na­tive means of gen­er­at­ing in­come for the rest of the year.

I reg­is­tered MF Hold­ings in 2010. The business was reg­is­tered in such a way that it would ac­com­mo­date dif­fer­ent types of ven­tures un­der it. MF stands for Multi-func­tional. I noted that if at school I was able to learn and pass dif­fer­ent sub­jects, then it was pos­si­ble for me to fo­cus in more than one type of business. I later added other ven­tures such con­struc­tion to the com­pany’s pro­file.

LT: What in­flu­enced you to trade a com­fort­able LRA po­si­tion for self-em­ploy­ment?

MT: Since I was in­volved in as­sist­ing small en­ter­prises to pre­pare their fi­nan­cial ac­counts while work­ing for LRA, that cre­ated a con­flict of in­ter­est with my em­ploy­ers and I had to part ways with them. It is worth men­tion­ing that dur­ing for­mal em­ploy­ment, I was not able to ac­cu­mu­late per­sonal wealth as I have done since be­com­ing an en­tre­pre­neur. The house that I have and the ve­hi­cles I own were ac­quired through en­trepreneur­ship.

LT: What role did your child­hood play in shap­ing you as the en­tre­pre­neur that you are to­day? MT: My fa­ther uused to be a small­holder farmerer who reared ddairy cows and also planted crops. So, every day af­ter school, he would make me go aroaround the vil­lage sell­ing milk and I would sell all of it. This helped to raise money for my trans­port­tra to school.

When the veg­veg­eta­bles were ready for the mar­ket, he wouwould also ask me to do same, sell­ing from one house­hold to an­other.

At the time, iit all seemed like a pun­ish­ment­ment to me, but when I look back, I now re­alisealise that my fafa­ther was ac­tu­ally in­still­ing an en­trepreneur­shipen­trepreneur spirit at a ten­der age. So, to­day I have­hav a vi­sion about go­ing into com­mer­cial aga­gri­cul­ture be­cause I have wit

nessed­nessed its po­ten­tialpo first hand.

LT: You re­cently opened a fuel sta­tion at Litha­bana­neng. How did yyou en­counter this busi­ness­ness op­por­tu­nity?

MT:M I had this idea of star­tin­ing a fill­ing sta­tion way back when I fore­saw that there would come a time when many peo­ple would drive cars and would there­fore need fuel ser­vices.

I then reg­is­tered a com­pany called MF Petroleum Pty Ltd in 2012. Ac­tu­ally, I have reg­is­tered many com­pa­nies that are not yet op­er­a­tional be­cause when­ever a thought that seems to make eco­nomic sense oc­curs to me I note it down for pos­si­ble fu­ture de­velop- ment.

So, that petroleum com­pany is fi­nally see­ing the light of day now af­ter years of learn­ing the work­ings of the petroleum in­dus­try. I have also been in­volved in an­other fill­ing sta­tion business where I am a part­ner and that has helped me to de­velop knowl­edge and skills to run a petroleum business.

The fill­ing sta­tion op­er­ates un­der the Puma brand and my vi­sion is to one day see my­self run­ning at least five such fil­ing sta­tions around the coun­try.

LT: How many peo­ple does the fill­ing sta­tion and the rest of MF Hold­ings em­ploy?

MT: Since the fa­cil­ity has a quick shop, we have a staff com­ple­ment of 30 peo­ple, and in all MF Hold­ings has a staff com­ple­ment of 45.

LT: What is your vi­sion go­ing for­ward?

MT: My vi­sion is to do well in two main busi­nesses one of which is prop­erty de­vel­op­ment in dif­fer­ent towns and glob­ally.

I also want to get in­volved in large scale com­mer­cial agri­cul­ture. I want to se­cure a large area of land where I can set up a huge farm for com­mer­cial crop farm­ing and an­i­mal hus­bandry. I am cur­rently mo­bil­is­ing re­sources for these vi­sions and I have al­ready iden­ti­fied a site for the farm.

LT: When do you see your­self ac­com­plish­ing these dreams?

MT: I have set a tar­get to have achieved these by the age of 40. And from the look of things, I am con­fi­dent that three years from now I will have done so.

I en­vis­age hav­ing at least 5000 em­ploy­ees on my pay­roll by then.

The prop­erty business is in­flu­enced by my ob­ser­va­tion that Maseru is in­creas­ingly be­com­ing over­pop­u­lated, and there should be an­other strate­gic lo­ca­tion that can be­come the next eco­nomic hub af­ter Maseru.

I be­lieve that de­vel­op­ment leads to cre­ation of jobs. If you can­not cre­ate jobs, then you are not talk­ing de­vel­op­ment be­cause when there are jobs there is pur­chas­ing power, and when there is pur­chas­ing power, the econ­omy will flour­ish be­cause of boom­ing business ac­tiv­ity.

That is why I be­lieve in cre­at­ing jobs, and if you are cre­at­ing jobs you are chang­ing lives, and if you are chang­ing lives you feel good be­cause when lives are changed, there is no cor­rup­tion, no crime, no HIV/AIDS and the coun­try be­comes a bet­ter place for ev­ery­one to live in.

LT: What drives you and mo­ti­vates you to over­come ob­sta­cles as a busi­ness­man?

MT: I have a quote from Nel­son Man­dela that I par­tic­u­larly like which says “It al­ways seems im­pos­si­ble un­til it is done.” These are some of the words that have driven me in my quest to be­come the en­tre­pre­neur that I am to­day.

I also be­lieve in peo­ple. I del­e­gate author­ity and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to my work­ers and mo­ti­vate them to work. My busi­nesses are left in the ca­pa­ble hands of my em­ploy­ees and they are do­ing well as a re­sult of my trust in them.

That frees me to do other things which I would not be able to do if I had de­voted my­self to run­ning ev­ery­thing by my­self.

LT: What is the one mis­take that youths com­mit in their at­tempts to break into business?

MT: There are a num­ber of such mis­takes. Firstly, they want overnight suc­cess. They want to start at the top and se­cure a multi-mil­lion deal right away. It does not work like that. You have to start small and grad­u­ally grow in a large busi­nessper­son.

An­other chal­lenge hold­ing back our young en­trepreneurs is be­liev­ing that cap­i­tal is the fi­nance needed to start a business. Cap­i­tal is your brain; how you think will lead you to se­cur­ing the finances you need. Fi­nance is avail­able, you just need to think of how to ac­cess it.

Our youth also tend to give up eas­ily they need to be pa­tient. Just think of when you started learn­ing how to write. It took you long but you ul­ti­mately nailed it. So be pa­tient. Even in business it is like that. I have also failed in cer­tain business ven­tures I at­tempted in the past, but I never gave up. I once at­tempted to open a large sta­tion store which failed dis­mally but I did not give up.

What is com­pound­ing these chal­lenges is our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem which does not en­cour­age learn­ers to be en­trepreneurs. The sys­tem teaches peo­ple to look for work and not to cre­ate work. We are taught to write an ap­pli­ca­tion let­ter at a very young age in­stead of be­ing taught to be en­trepreneurs from that age.

We need to in­cor­po­rate en­trepreneur­ship in the learn­ing cur­ricu­lum at all lev­els of ed­u­ca­tion. That way we will ap­pre­ci­ate the spirit of en­trepreneur­ship at a ten­der age and will change mind­sets.

ris­ing en­tre­pre­neur Makhetha thaele.

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