The Star Early Edition
MNGUNI SET TO LAUNCH OWN BRAND
ENTREPRENEUR Levi Mnguni’s harsh childhood memories of selling viennas have propelled him to venture into the unknown territory of creating his own stationery brand.
Mnguni, 33, from Mpumalanga, is set to launch his own stationery brand, Thuto Stationery, in December.
The businessman, who grew up with his grandparents in the village of Troya, never thought he would be where he is today.
“Growing up in a poor family, I had to sell viennas from the age of 7 at school to help with the income at home. I hated it. I always told myself I am going to work in a nice office, with a twirling chair one day,” said Mnguni.
Little did he know that experience would be handy some day.
Thuto Stationery was established in July after Mnguni had been supplying stationery to different schools through his company Compubooks, that also supplies stationery and learning material to Tshwane University of Technology (TUT). “I have been supplying stationery to schools and we are expected to make a presentation about the brand we are supplying.
“I got bothered with presenting products I knew nothing about. That’s when the concept developed. I wanted to come up with a brand that spoke to us as Africans hence the use of colours and patterns,” he said.
His passion for helping people stemmed from having to watch his varsity room-mate being chucked out on the street because he had no money to pay rent. Mnguni said that day would forever be etched in his mind.
“My room-mate was an orphan and has experienced a great deal of abuse growing up, and was at TUT on a bursary but he got rent assistance from two friends; unfortunately they couldn’t continue to pay. I was asked to come translate at his meeting with the landlord. After he had relayed his story of what the landlord said, I could not even translate it; I walked out the meeting,”said Mnguni.
The landlord told the young man that they ran a business and couldn’t care less about him being an orphan.
That’s when Mnguni started his own business, helping students get accommodation, which only earned him R10 commission for each placement. He made at least R300 a month; today he owns the building providing students with accommodation.
Thuto products can be spotted with their vibrant colours and patterns. The main products are glue, pencils, ruler, eraser, pocket file and exercise books, which parents won’t have to cover as they will be covered already.
“Growing up in a poor family, I used brown paper to cover my books while other learners had bright, printed coloured covers.
“With Thuto exercise books, all learners can be uniform, where one does not feel like an outcast,” said Mnguni.