Prime Hustle: Bigger fish to fry

2012-04-16 15:50

Eating chips from Porto’s, a fish and chips shop that has “placed Newcastle on the map” was an almost daily occurrence for Penuel Mlotshwa and his family.

Even as a little boy, the 26-year-old says, he thought the shop should export its product beyond the borders of the KwaZulu-Natal town.

“They make the best chips in the world,” he says. “They don’t have a special sauce; they just have really great taste.”

Enter the new fish and chips shop in the bustling Eloff Street in Johannesburg – Penuel’s. Just paces away from Ghandi Square, the shop is simple; sparsely decorated and unpretentious. A few menus hang on the freshly painted walls and three small plastic tables and chairs seat the customers who trickle in from the pavement.

Inspired by the Porto’s product, Mlotshwa conceived the idea for a similar business in 2006 after reading Robert Kiyosaki’s bestseller Rich Dad, Poor Dad.

“I wanted to create a business based on a system I could replicate, hopefully without being there,” he says, citing one of the book’s principles.

Mlotshwa, who also works as a credit risk analyst at a major bank, says he wants to be extremely rich – aiming to make R100 million by the age of 50 so he can pursue his first love, art and music.

Mlotshwa is a musician, artist and a self-published author. His dream is to be able to make music and art daily.

Success, says Penuel, is “being in control of my time and changing the world through my art and music”.

Knowing he’ll have to take big risks to meet his financial goals, he adds that he hopes to one day be able to gamble R5 million on an idea “without breaking a sweat”.

Venturing into this business was an exercise in learning for him; he’s grooming himself to fry bigger fish from the experience he’ll gain from Penuel’s. “The sooner I get immersed in business, the better. It’s about growing a thick skin – you need guts to make it big,” he says.

And guts he has. He’s taken loans to the value of R160 000 and invested R40 000 of his savings into the venture. His biggest concern now is breaking even, which to him means making enough money to pay rent, the salaries of his six employees, and buy stock.

To break even at the end of the month, the BComm Accounting and Economics graduate knows he needs to make R1 500 daily. Currently the shop makes half that target, and although Mlotshwa says he’s content with that for now, he also says he’s impatient for growth. Just moments ago he’d come back from collecting his first stack of pamphlets to advertise the business.

Penuel says he wants to inspire black youths to pursue their dreams. “Through my empowerment I want others to empower themselves. I hope some young boy can one day say, ‘If he did it, I can do it too.’”

According to him, self-empowerment is the one thing black people lack. “We’ve created a culture where people depend on government and others to give them finance and build them houses.

We’ve lost the drive to go out there and make things happen for ourselves,” he says.

His advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to go ahead and do it. “Stop thinking about tenders, stop waiting for government funding,” he says, using his hands for emphasis.

“If you’ve got an idea, pretend you’re a white boy from a poor family and start your business the way he would. Never take ‘no’ for an answer.”

Mlotshwa has been trying to secure a meeting with George Sombonos, the CEO and founder of Chicken Licken, for the past few months.

“He’s one of the fathers of franchising in South Africa and he’s innovative. I want him to be my mentor and I want to hear him tell me his story,” he says. So far he’s not been successful, but says, “I’m going to meet him. Never take ‘no’ for an answer. Never.”

» Prime Hustle is a regular feature on entrepreneurs. Send your suggestions or share your experiences:

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