Young entrepreneur overcomes tough past to start own business

2014-02-14 00:00

MSIZI Myeni dropped out of school and took a labourer’s job when he found himself head of a household at the age of 16.

But then, while still a teenager — and despite having limited skills and no money — he gambled on the idea that he could support his two sisters better if he started his own company.

Now, the 21-year-old gives talks on entrepreneurship to schools in Mariann­hill; he has taken on three partners in his tiny construction firm, and his “corporate social responsibility” programme now extends far beyond his family.

Last week, Myeni arranged for new school uniforms to be delivered to 20 pupils, and sponsored small food parcels for his neediest neighbours.

AA Construction and Events Management survived for two years on little more than guts and a small loan from a church in Dassenhoek.

But mentors say Myeni’s business got its kick-start when he set aside a week to attend an entrepreneurship workshop in Durban in June last year, hosted by the Robin Hood Foundation.

The young entrepreneur might not have a matric certificate, but he now has a business plan, book-keeping skills, and dreams of generating jobs for the unemployed of Dassenhoek and building sports stadiums.

Kim Griffith-Jones, founder of the charity, said, “Msizi’s story is one of inspiration itself — his mother passed away when he was in Standard 6 [Grade 8] and his father passed away two years later. He was left to fend for himself and his sisters. He [told us] he worked so hard to pull himself out of what could have been an easy road to giving up.”

Griffith-Jones said Myeni had contacted the foundation in January to ask whether they could help in providing school uniforms at Chief Lukswayo Primary, Dassenhoek.

Referring to both Myeni and his young business partners, Syanela Dlamini, Philani Majozi and Nkosikhona Shange, Griffith-Jones said, “We are completely blown away by these amazing young men’s passion to ‘pay it forward’ and help in their community because they’ve been there and want to shine a little light in the lives of these children.” Myeni said his entrepreneurship was triggered by “understanding the wages I was getting [as a labourer] in Pinetown were very poor; they would never increase. We started the business with a brush cutter.”

He said the partners performed the labour on their small private construction contracts, but said: “Now we have business training; we have a bakkie — maybe we can employ our own workers this year.”

Griffith-Jones said Myeni had helped inspire a new schools entrepreneurship project this year. “During the course of 2014, the RHF will be visiting several underprivileged schools in KZN and we will be bringing motivational speakers as well as entrepreneurs who come from disadvantaged communities but who are now successful. These speakers will tell their stories and give the youth some hope as well as some ideas on how to be the architects of their future.”

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