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Inspring: 5 SA Entrepreneurs Speak On How They Started Their Businesses Without Funding!!

Tshepo Phakathi: Phakathi Holdings

Noxolo Nelana: Nelana Media House

noxolo nelana

After spending ten years in the financial industry, filmmaker and content producer Noxolo broke away from the sector to study a BA in English and Communication Science, which also covered TV and film production. She also further studied at Big Fish School of Digital Filmmaking and the Academy of Sound Engineering (ASE). She founded Nelana Media House in 2014, and is currently working on opening a film resource centre in East London where self-taught filmmakers who cannot afford to uproot their lives and go to film school in Cape Town or Joburg can get accredited training. “I’ve always said: I have the knowledge in my head, the paper is only to impress a boss and to hire me,” she says.


Khumbulani “KB” Mpofu: KB Mpofu Photography

kb mpofu

Zimbabwean born photographer KB lived in Johannesburg for ten years before moving back to Bulawayo to open a photography studio. KB Mpofu Photography was started with no external funding and has been running for a year-and-a-half. Clients include corporates, NGOs, schools, weddings and private clients. “Running a business is a struggle and needs lots of patience, and even though the photography business in Zimbabwe is not at a level where it’s at in South Africa, there are signs that we’re moving in the right direction, which presents opportunity,” he says.

Tshepo Phakathi: Phakathi Holdings

tshepo phakathi

Tshepo, an entrepreneur and economist behind incubation initiative, My Start-Up Soweto, is the group CEO of Phakathi Holdings. He established his first formal business in corporate finance at 16, when he was a student at Wits University. The business didn’t need any finance because he was merely providing advice to businesses in the manufacturing sector, through Gauteng’s Department of Economic Development. Phakathi Holdings’s portfolio now includes servicing the transport, finance and IT industries. “There’s nothing wrong with starting a business with your own money, but it’s cheaper in the long run to borrow money. While there are many challenges to securing funding from banks and other institutions, people should always push to make borrowing their first choice because the interest you earn will always be tax deductible.”

Kagiso Sebediela: Freedom’s Kitchin


Freedom’s Kitchin’ started as a way to make extra money when Kagiso was still a student, and has become a fully-fledged catering and office canteen management business. In the final year of his Biochemistry degree at the University of Johannesburg, Kagiso and a friend decided to start delivering food to residences so students could have better food options. When demand and support grew, they started hosting chesa nyama gigs on weekends, with the first gig getting 250 people. After enrolling in an enterprise development programme in 2013, Kagiso became the sole owner of the business, which now manages five office canteens. “Staying at home helped me grow my business. I didn’t have to worry about rent and domestic bills, so I was able to invest money into growing the business.”

Ray Buthelezi: LRay Ink

ray buthelezi

LRay Ink is a mobile tattoo and body piercing company with operations throughout South Africa. What sets LRay Ink apart from other tattoo studios is that they travel to a client’s residence. Ray, who is not a tattoo or piercing artist, was a student working at a club in Braamfontein when he decided to start something of his own. “I grew out of working for someone, and  wanted something that was mine. I prefer to set my own rules and own schedule,” he says. It’s only been 11 months since Ray started his business, but he’s been able to do all the things he wanted growing up, like buying a fancy car and being financially stable and independent at a young age.


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