Entrepreneur Sibusiso “Skinny Sbu” Ngwenya has called on young people who want to be entrepreneurs to educate themselves on what opportunities the state has to offer, instead of being critical all the time. He was speaking at a dialogue hosted by the Government Communication and Information Systems (GCIS) on the eve of Youth Day.
The dialogue’s theme was “Celebrating success stories of young entrepreneurs and empowering youth with information to start and sustain their businesses.” Speakers included National Youth Development Agency’s board member Thulisa Ndlela, the founder of Kasi Economy Group, Kabelo Makinta, and the manager at the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), Ofentse Shakung.
Ngwenya, who is the founder of Skinny Sbu Socks which was chosen to be the official sock partner of the 64th Grammy Awards 2022, slammed the youth for not taking advantage of the services offered by government institutions and online platforms. “If you are a young person living in South Africa, you are living in the land of opportunities,” he said. “If as a young person you have data and can afford to join Spaces and still complain of not getting opportunities, it is because you do not want to find the knowledge.”
Twitter Spaces are audio chatrooms that are hosted by Twitter, where users can interact with each other and host discussions. Ngwenya admitted that he also initially doubted the services of government agencies when he formed his company. “For seven years I doubted approaching agencies like the NYDA, the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) or the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA), and three years ago I took it upon myself to learn how they could assist me,” he said.
“Thanks to them I was able to secure sock knitting machines and put my employees on SEFA’s database so they could pay my salaries when I could not.” Ngwenya also encouraged young entrepreneurs to find mentors. “I used to hate mentors, but I realised that mentors are very helpful because these are people that travelled the journey and they know how to get there,” he said.
The NYDA’s Ndlela challenged the false notion that youth-owned businesses would never grow. “Our key performance indicator is how much of a dent we can leave insofar as growing small youth-owned businesses and making sure that these businesses move from small to large businesses,” he said. “We also want to go further and support the creation of businesses that will tap into the export market in light of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement.”