Getting into business with your spouse might seem like a good idea, but it can quickly spiral downwards if you don’t share the same views.
This, however, hasn’t been the case for Lita Mbokotho and Hombisa Mbokotho of Tsori Capital, a 100% black-owned company, of which women own 70%.
The couple both worked in the finance sector and decided to quit their jobs to start their own business in 2010. “I’m from a small town called Engcobo in the Eastern Cape, so I grew up I where poverty was glaringly obvious, but I never allowed it to define me,” says Litha. “I’ve always seen myself as bigger than what I saw at the time.” And although his family couldn’t afford much, they placed great emphasis on education.
While at the University of Pretoria studying towards a BCom Accounting, one of the companies mentoring Litha got into trouble with the South African Revenue Service (Sars) and he had to come in to assist them.
He consulted with Sars on its behalf and helped the company resolve the issue. This experience gave him a foot in the door. Not only did he help the company avoid a hefty fine, but it was also able to avoid shedding jobs.
After finishing university, Litha went to work in investment banking – there his career soared. He continued to do his studies and has his Honours in Accounting from the University of South Africa. He also went to Manchester to do his MBA.
His wife Hombisa, who is the co-founder of Tsori Capital, has a CV equally as impressive as that of her husband. Also from a small town in the Eastern Cape, called Flagstaff, she was raised by a single mother who also encouraged her to focus on education.
She too worked in the finance sector and then in consulting. Moving from the finance sector was a transition, as consulting was completely new territory for her.
With the skills they acquired during their careers, in 2010 Litha and Hombisa decided that it was time for them to establish Tsori Capital.
Hombisa says she wanted to go into a business that would make a significant impact on entrepreneurship.
“In 2013 I had this nagging feeling that I had worked for people for too long,” she says. She began working part-time in the business and joined fully in 2014.
Tsori Capital offers a range of services, which include: corporate and project finance, advisory and general professional service, water and sanitation service, accounting, internal auditing service, engineering service and general supply service.
“Our company is quite rich in its skill set. We have people from various disciplines. Most of them are young. In terms of our vision, we wanted to be a point of reference for integrated consulting and engineering services in Africa and the Middle East,” Lita says.
He adds that they wanted to inspire the development of Africans with the aims to unlock investment for their clients. One of their biggest projects has been a waste management project in the Dr Kenneth Kaunda municipality in Klerksdorp and in Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal.
The municipality appointed Tsori Capital to assist in raising fund for infrastructural projects.
“While we were packaging a funding solution for the municipality, we discovered that it had bigger problems. It had four local municipalities. Within those municipalities, there were a lot of mining towns. Most of the mines had closed down and left people jobless,” Hombisa says.
The pair decided to start a project to help those in the community who were unemployed. With the rates of unemployment so high, Tsori Capital couldn’t just help one entrepreneur – it had to come up with a project that would benefit a large number of individuals.
A project around recycling waste made sense, as some members of the community were already involved in this – they just needed help to formalise it.
Lita and Hombisa went to speak to a number of companies about the recycling project; one of which was Nampak, who said it would buy the waste.
“We came up with a structure of buy-back centres, who purchase the recycled waste from the community,” Hombisa says.
Lita interjects: “The problem with the waste industry is that it’s still stigmatised and most people don’t know that it’s a R5-billion industry in which black people are not participating.”
Another one of the company’s aims is to help black businesses transition from being service providers to becoming suppliers as well.
So what’s their advice to thrive in business and make your business relationship with your spouse work? The pair believe it’s about having a shared vision and understanding that things take time. “You won’t benefit from a business immediately,” concludes Lita.