Lebogang Shuping left his hometown of Mangaung for the bright lights of Gauteng in 2004 to complete his IT studies at the Vaal University of Technology. In 2019 he returned as the founder and CEO of Black Mint Futures, a business that provides information and communication and technology (ICT) solutions, as well as graphic design and branding for small businesses.
He made the move even though small businesses in the province are quite slow to use technology “It’s difficult to do technology take up in the township because some people are doing well without it. But now as a business, I have to educate them on the importance of such things. I think that’s what I think we can look at; where we allow businesses to embrace technology and see it as a way of enhancing their businesses,“ Shuping said while referring to the importance of an online presence for small businesses.
While he understands the reluctance of some businesses to incorporate technology because they believe they are already a success and the costs that come with it, he says they must move with the times. “Slowly but surely businesses will start getting into technology, but it will be technology that is behind. We’re adapting to things too late,” he said. The situation is not helped when people have less money due to unemployment or earning less money, so they have to cut back.
“Sometimes people don’t see the value of paying,” Shuping said, recalling an instance of a client negotiating a price to have a virus removed from her laptop. “And also, people in the township need to value professionals operating in the township. I have a challenge of people asking me to do the work first and then saying they’ll pay after,” Shuping said. Shuping, who has worked as an IT specialist and in the telecommunications sector for years, said that customers would not necessarily act this way with other businesses.
“To me, because I’m one of them, people think, ‘No, this guy is in the township, do the work so we can see,” Shuping recalls racking his brain over what business to start when he arrived in Bloemfontein and ultimately chose to go with his trained profession. “The Bloem economy itself is not vibrant, it’s challenging. A lot of people don’t have money. People are sitting at home,” Shuping said.
“Whoever has money, the little they have, they decide to go out just release a bit of stress. So, businesses that flourish in Bloem are those that provide entertainment. “But I looked and thought they need a lot of capital, and there’s so many of them. Then I thought to myself, what do I know, I know IT. Let me hire myself, let me provide services to fix computers, web designing, antiviruses. Then I incorporated that with graphic design and printing.” However, it is not all doom and gloom. Shuping draws from his wealth of business and entrepreneurial experience to see the forest for the trees.
“The township economy has so much potential. The real wealth is in ownership,” he said. “With business, it’s a tricky one but it pays off in the long run. One of the ideas I’ve started but haven’t properly worked on, it is teaching young kids to program. I’ve already taught my kids how to program. It’s fun, they design games; nice stuff like moving pictures, something very interesting to a kid. “One of my ideas is that I want to roll it out to the township schools, but that means I’m going to need someone to sponsor me with the laptops and the data. There are a lot of opportunities for IT, getting it out there, getting more people to be involved. It’s just that people that hold the money need to see the value.”