"I started putting together baby-showers, birthdays and family dinners," recalls Zanele Zulu (23). "Right now, it's trendy to be your own boss, but not everyone is willing to put in the work that goes along with running a business," she says.
Zanele started her event and deco business while she was a student at IIE Rosebank College, Braamfontein campus. "I started just over a year ago. I would do mock setups in the garden to show potential clients what I was capable of." Zanele posted these images on her social media accounts, and from there she acquired her first clients.
Zanele's first event, which set her business in motion, was her sister's bridal party. "All the deco pieces were made from plastic and the theme was black and white. It was absolutely beautiful." Raving reviews from family members gave Zanele the confidence she needed to pursue what started off as a hobby." Subsequently, her company Mbalenhle Pty, is the namesake of her sister Mbali.
Juggling school, your own business & work
Zanele graduated with her IIE Bachelor of Business Administration qualification from Rosebank College, Braamfontein campus this May. This was her second qualification, as the year before she articulated from an IIE Higher Certificate in Business Principles and Practices. "I did a lot of juggling, but it all worked out because my headspace was in the right place. I wanted to be successful in both school and my business and therefore I created time to pursue both. Zanele is currently also working for a media production company which requires additional juggling. "My boss is very cool. He encourages me to pursue my business too and I am learning so much from him."
"A lot of people don't realise what they have at their disposal. For example, my first 20 plates were from my mom's collection." Zanele used creative ways to overcome financial and other challenges that come with running a startup. "I would attend class, then get on a taxi to buy stock needed for an event and return to class with all my goodies."
What have you learnt?
I have learnt the importance of managing and maintaining relationships. For example, sometimes I would miss class and would rely on my relationships with classmates for notes. I've learnt about financial management. Managing your budget and finances goes a long way in building and sustaining a business. I've also had to learn how to be resourceful. Because I don't have large budgets to employ permanent staff, I have used other tactics like employing high school students or unemployed graduates on a project basis. I have also learnt to handle rejection constructively. Sometimes prospects turn down your service. In those instances, I have learnt not to dwell and to move on. Afterall there is always an opportunity and you must trust your instinct.
Written by Karabo Keepile