I was paid a lovely compliment recently, where someone said I had a young heart.
I trust it means that my actions belie my grey hair! Yet, it has been my joy and privilege to work with mostly young people in the past seven-and-a-half years.
A large part of my “Why” revolves around supporting young people on their entrepreneurial journey. I count it an honour to share stories like that of Anda Mthulu.
Anda is a beneficiary and graduate of the Centre for Entrepreneurship (CFE) at False Bay College. We met up with this young man in May 2021, when a cohort of young people began their journey with us.
This likeable entrepreneur has not allowed his disability to hinder his entrepreneurial journey.
Anda was a permanent employee of Albany Bakery.
Yet his life took a tragic turn in August 2011, when he was shot in a robbery at a shopping centre in Mfuleni.
He and his then girlfriend went to Shoprite and were stunned when a shoot-out between robbers and the police broke out.
They bustled their way outside. It was only then that he realised that he had been hit in the leg by a stray bullet.
Anda then relays how after much time in and out of hospital, with some complications setting in, the doctors made the decision to amputate his leg.
He then went through bouts of depression and anxiety as he realised that this shooting incident had changed almost everything in his life.
He was so discouraged that he shares how he became suicidal at his lowest ebb.
Thankfully, he fought his way back into an active, contributing life through therapy, family and friends, co-workers, and the medical fraternity.
Their support was outstanding, and he dedicated himself to recovery by playing sport, dancing, basketball and hand cycling.
He started his business in 2010 at Site C taxi rank. He would clean shoes on his off day. In 2016, he formalised it to what it is today.
Msi Exclusive Footwear Design & Manufacturing occupied a space in Old Mutual in 2018, then, in 2019, they also occupied a space at Southern Sun Hotel in Cape Town. In 2020 they were given a space in Site C Kuwait taxi rank.
Their presence and growth were recognised in 2018, where Msi Exclusive was short-listed at the South African Business Awards in the Top 20. He came eighth and received a “Never Surrender Award”.
Importantly, the business has managed to employ seven people with disabilities, with six wheelchair users and one amputee.
Anda gratefully acknowledges the support and role of a variety of organisations during the past 11 years.
These include: Disabled People South Africa (DPSA), QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA), QuadPara Association Western Cape (QAWC), the Congress for Democratic Taxi Associations (Codeta), SAB Foundation, the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), Old Mutual, Fetola, the Southern Sun Group, and False Bay College’s CFE.
Exposure via radio and newspaper includes Vukani, which belongs to the same stable as this newspaper, and Zibonele FM.
He concluded his interview with me with the following advice to others starting a business: “Work hard, be patient and be committed to your dreams. Most importantly, never focus on what you have lost but focus on what you can still achieve.”
As I draft this short article, it is Youth Day (June is commemorated as Youth Month).
Here’s Anda’s words of encouragement to young people: “Follow your dreams as only you can achieve them. Never give up. Hard work pays off. Do not forget that education is particularly important.”
Three lessons I learn from Anda, are that of courage, attitude, and character.
“You can’t swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore” – William Faulkner
“We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude” – Chuck Swindoll
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved” – Helen Keller
I believe that Anda has shown courage in the haunting face of fear, chosen to embrace a forward-facing attitude, and reflects solid foundations of character.
It is with this example by a young person, that I look with considerable hope and optimism to the future and pay homage to our youth.
● Steve Reid is the manager of the Centre for Entrepreneurship (CFE) at False Bay College. Contact him on Steve.Reid@falsebay.org.za