Nhlanhla Ndlovu of Hustlenomics has been selected as the SA Finalist for Chivas Venture 2020 - a global platform that offers social entrepreneurs who are using business to solve social and environmental issues, an opportunity to attract local investment and to present their authentic enterprise ideas to potential funders on a global stage.
He pitched against three other candidates from carefully selected social entrepreneurship ventures, for the title of SA Finalist. Nhlanhla walked away with the title because he impressed the judges – among them respected entrepreneur Andile Khumalo - with a watertight business plan and because his business model can be expanded to scale, to impact on townships across Africa.
Ndlovu was born and raised in Soweto, in a tiny four-roomed house, which he shared with his large family.
"Having to share such a small living space with 12 relatives while going through all the growth stages of becoming a man, inspired and motivated me to build my own private space in the family yard," he tells Fin24.
"I founded Hustlenomics in 2015 and we operate from my home in Sowetor. Hustlenomics is a for profit impact driven social enterprise that is dedicated to replacing informal backyard shacks with affordable sustainable housing using innovative building technology."
The company assists low income households that cannot get access to traditional home improvement financing and give them the opportunity to own these structures using our innovative financing model.
"We employ and upskill women and youth by training them in interlocking brick manufacturing and sustainable building methods. We also use recycled builders rubble to manufacture our bricks to have environmental impact," says Ndlovu.
"This helps us eradicate informal backyard shacks in Soweto and create affordable rental accommodation for backyard shack dwellers."
He enrolled for a free, three-month sponsored bricklaying course that was offered in the area. After completing the course, he started saving up and bought some building materials and constructed a backyard room, a project which took almost four years to complete.
"Some of my friends, including one with electrical skills, would come and help me with the building. We soon started attracting other people in the community who wanted our services to build backyard rooms for them," he continues.
"The interest from customers was a turning point as it prompted me to register the company Hustlenomics Pty. Ltd. My entrepreneurial spirit is also inspired by my mother, who sold food and chickens on credit to her customers - and then collected payment at the end of every month. This influenced my business model - I provide a service on credit and we recoup our costs at a later time."
The gap he identified was that most families in the township could not get access to traditional home financing, which led them to build informal backyard shacks either to accommodate extended family members or to rent them out as a source of income.
Realising that the issue of informal structures was a very real existing problem, became the catalyst for developing the idea into a business.
"I could relate because I had come from similar circumstances and understood the problem well. It was because of my own personal experience that I spotted the opportunity for a business that could benefit others as well - since many families in and around the townships had the same need."
From here, the idea was born to focus on identifying low-income homes with backyard shacks that could benefit from being replaced with formal structures. This would provide owners with better quality homes and a sustainable rental income, while alleviating some of the social ills of the community by providing employment for skilled and unskilled youths in the community.
The challenges were getting people to understand alternative forms of building technology, accessing funding for the first few projects before the model was self-sustainable, and putting proper business systems in place (legal contracts, accounting systems, meeting compliance regulations) for our type of business model.
His advice to would-be entrepreneurs is to explore the available platforms that help entrepreneurs develop their ideas into viable businesses such as government agencies (NWDA, SEDA, Innovation Hub).
There are also competitions that support social entrepreneurs with great ideas and give them international exposure and access to mentorship, potential funders, and investors.
"Entrepreneurs need to learn to collaborate instead of operating in silos, because often you find that sharing experiences helps in avoiding similar mistakes," he concludes.
"My biggest hope is that they find a problem that they have a real passion for, because when the going gets tough your passion is the only thing that will keep you going."