It was a chance encounter with a businesswoman that turned Zakes Mabhena, who owns two businesses, into an entrepreneur. Mabhena told Vutivi News that it all began when he attended an event and volunteered to wash the dishes for the coordinating company. “I used to work at McDonald’s and at the beginning, it was all about getting money,” he said.
“However, as time went on, I grew weary of waking up early every day and working for another person. I dreamed of one day being my own boss and creating employment so that even if I wake up at midday, my company would sufficient.” Mabhena, who is based in eMbalenhle in Mpumalanga, said that in 2013 he attended an event at a centre in his area.
“I saw dirty glasses lying around and offered to wash them for free and the owner agreed,” he said. “I worked voluntarily for the company for quite some time before she ended up employing me on a full-time basis. When she passed away in 2016, I decided that now was the time to start my own company and I established Mabhena Events and Hire.” Mabhena’s dream of being his own boss and making a difference became a reality. He started organising and coordinating events across the country and employed eight people.
However, when Covid-19 hit the country, he had to temporarily close shop because there were no events to organise. Mabhena had to think of something new to survive, and he decided to establish his second company, Mabhena Textile Creations. “I started by making masks for Sasol, who would then provide (them to) their employees,” he said.
“Sasol then provided training to manufacture overalls for them. Using the second-hand material I received from them, I started manufacturing hats, welding caps, school chair bags, pencil cases, bucket hats and cooler bags. I was also able to employ eight people.” Today, both of Mabhena’s companies are successful and fully operational. However, it has not always been easy. “One of the biggest challenges I faced was when I would have a verbal agreement with a client to do an event and get paid afterward,” he said.
“This backfired really quickly as sometimes clients would disappear immediately after and I would have to play a cat and mouse game, chasing after them to pay for my services and for the broken glass and plates that I would have to replace. “These days, I make use of contracts and this has spared me a lot of heartaches,” Mabhena said.
Also, some of his employees have stolen his equipment. However, he believes there are ways to make the best out of unpleasant situations. “Whenever I had old glasses and plates that I no longer used, I would give them to my employees and encourage them to organise small birthday parties and events in their area,” he said. “This…. empowers them to be their own business people and also avoids having my stuff stolen. “I want my employees to learn to stand on their own and be their own bosses one day,” Mabhena said.