‘Entrepreneurs are born, not made’

2012-01-11 00:00

NORMAN Sibetha’s life as an entrepreneur began when he was 12 in rural Bulwer, when he distributed consignment stock from the local bakery to fellow pupils from four schools who acted as his sales agents, earning enough money to lend to his teachers in times of need.

Despite accepting two offers to take up employment in the business world, Sibetha has always returned to entrepreneurship — and continues to focus on expanding his current businesses.

The owner of two diverse local businesses in information technology (IT) and construction, the 47 year old Pietermaritzburg resident is also on the boards of NCT Forestry and Durban Wood Chip.

Sibetha has fond memories of his formative years, despite the fact that he lived in a poor household.

His parents died when he was still a teenager, prompting Sibetha to pursue a path of education and entrepreneurship. As a 12-year-old his day began at 4 am, when he obtained stock from the bakery, he told The Witness.

Later in life he moved to Plessislaer, where he studied electronics post-matric, enabling him to secure a job as a TV technician at Early Bird Services in Johannesburg, where he worked for four years.

His first stint as an entrepreneur came in his early 20s, when he established N2 Computers in Pietermaritzburg.

“Hulett Aluminium [now Hulamin], whom I had done some work for, approached me to work for them as their Network Controller and I accepted.”

After five years in that role, Sibetha left the company and established Phuthuma Technologies in the early 1990s. This was the start of an almost two-decade-long career in entrepreneurship. Phuthuma focuses primarily on IT infrastructure solutions, including computer cabling and networking.

In 1998, he identified an opportunity in the construction sector through the Department of Transport’s Vukuzakhe Programme (an emerging contractor development programme) and established Zamokwakhe Construction, which focuses on civil contracting, general building work and equipment hiring.

This business — which employs about 50 people at any given point in time — now boasts significant assets, including four tipper trucks and an excavator.

There are two driving forces behind Sibetha’s success: an unwavering commitment to entrepreneurship and his commitment to empowering young people. “Not everyone is an entrepreneur. You’re kind of born with it I think. I’m an entrepreneur at heart — it’s inside me. I’m not afraid of taking a calculated risk.”

While he believes in employing the right people who have the necessary skills, Sibetha has also granted students the opportunity to work as interns in his IT business.

These focus areas essentially sum up his journey as an entrepreneur so far — a well-rounded businessman with skills who is not afraid to follow-through with a business idea.

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