De­posit4U founder prof­its from set­back

Helps young professionals se­cure short-term loans

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - BUSINESS - SIZWE DLAMINI

THE “wounded healer” phe­nom­e­non is one of the most ro­man­ti­cised con­cepts in psy­chol­ogy, de­scrib­ing how a wound­ing ex­pe­ri­ence can lead to par­tic­u­lar ca­reer choices.

For Andile Nom­lala, his “wound­ing ex­pe­ri­ence” be­came a busi­ness op­por­tu­nity.

He founded a fi­nan­cial ser­vices provider that of­fered short- term loans to cover up­front de­posits and ad­min­is­tra­tion costs for rental ac­com­mo­da­tion be­cause he knew first-hand what it was like.

Tar­get­ing young professionals, De­posit4U was con­ceived as a ve­hi­cle to help­ing young grad­u­ates se­cure their own ac­com­mo­da­tion so they could fo­cus on their work.

It is a si­t­u­a­tion Nom­lala un­der­stands only too well.

“I come from Mthatha in the East­ern Cape. I stud­ied in­vest­ment and fi­nance at the Univer­sity of the Western Cape and did both my Hon­ours in man­age­ment prac­tice and ex­ec­u­tive Mas­ter’s in busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion at UCT.

“I lived in the town­ship, far from where I worked and didn’t have ac­cess to the re­sources I needed for my first flat, trans­port and a suit,” he said.

Nom­lala has served in lead­er­ship struc­tures of the Western Cape’s Black Man­age­ment Forum (BMF) from Stu­dent Chap­ter level un­til be­com­ing pro­vin­cial chair­per­son.

Next month, his three-year term as chair ends.

In 2014, he set up De­posit4U. “My friends were bor­row­ing money from me be­cause I had other busi­nesses and was a lot more liq­uid than they were.

“I re­alised it was al­ways for the same rea­son: to pay de­posits on their ac­com­mo­da­tion. I un­der­stood the des­per­a­tion. Es­tate agents and land­lords won’t give you the keys with­out you pay­ing a dou­ble de­posit, which is re­quired in Cape Town. Cor­po­rates don’t help you with start-up pay­ments: as a new em­ployee you have to wait.”

But wait­ing is not an op­tion when you’re a young grad­u­ate pro­fes­sional al­ready on the back foot: liv­ing far from the of­fice, de­pen­dent on public trans­port so you ar­rive late and leave early, with no pro­fes­sional wardrobe, and then you still need to eat.

“I’ve seen how the busi­ness helps from a so­cial per­spec­tive.

“If you grad­u­ate now and you have to live with rel­a­tives in the town­ships, you’re at a huge dis­ad­van­tage.

“Once your su­pe­ri­ors have that per­cep­tion of late-com­ing, you’re not mak­ing a good im­pres­sion and you’re not go­ing to thrive in your po­si­tion. Liv­ing close to the of­fice is cru­cial to give grad­u­ates that boost so they can leave the of­fice at 7pm or 8pm, which makes a huge dif­fer­ence.”

Hav­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion set­tled al­lows you to fo­cus on the rest: mak­ing a good im­pres­sion at work, ar­riv­ing early and putting in longer hours, and se­cur­ing a per­ma­nent po­si­tion, he says.

De­posit4U was self-funded ini­tially, with start-up cap­i­tal of R150 000.

It pays the land­lord or agent the de­posit, ad­min fees and key de­posit, which are re­paid over 12 months, with in­ter­est. De­posit4U also of­fers le­gal advice on ten­ant rights and rep­re­sents their clients should le­gal dis­putes arise over de­posits.

Two months into the busi­ness, Nom­lala knew this was get­ting too big – de­mand far out­stripped his ca­pa­bil­i­ties, so he ap­proached his men­tor, Si­mon Sus­man, the chair­per­son of Woolworths, for in­vest­ment cap­i­tal.

In­stead, Sus­man be­came an eq­uity part­ner.

“He gave me ex­tra cap­i­tal for my busi­ness to thrive.

“The de­mand and clien­tele has grown ex­po­nen­tially.”

With about 3 000 clients and loans av­er­ag­ing R8 000, he says his to­tal loan book is R25 mil­lion. But busi­ness is primed for growth and Nom­lala is in talks with other ma­jor in­vestors.

“Even­tu­ally, I fore­see De­posit4U help­ing with the en­tire start-up cap­i­tal – the bed, fridge, lap­tops etc so you’re ready to start work,” he said.

De­posit4U is not his only busi­ness in­ter­est: he’s in­vested in Cape Ex­ec­u­tive Park­ing – a valet park­ing busi­ness and car wash ser­vice at Cape Town In­ter­na­tional Air­port; a re­tail fund that in­vests in small and medium-size busi­nesses that sup­ply big re­tail­ers; a fran­chise part­ner­ship with the restau­rant chain, Boot­leg­ger Cof­fee Com­pany; and in­vest­ments in in­dus­trial prop­erty and stu­dent ac­com­mo­da­tion.

He’s also the ex­ec­u­tive chair­per­son of Ng­way­iban­jwa Group, which houses all his in­ter­ests. For Nom­lala, it’s never go­ing to be about busi­ness as usual.

It’s about com­ing up with busi­ness ini­tia­tives that si­mul­ta­ne­ously cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for others to thrive.

Be­cause no one knows the plight of a young pro­fes­sional bet­ter than some­one who can truly say: been there, done that.

Suc­cess­ful en­tre­pre­neur Andile Nom­lala.

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