Maele Mothiba, who is the co-founder of a local internet service provider, says that being from a family of entrepreneurs is a privilege and a blessing, as this has greatly bolstered his business endeavours. He has worked closely with his family, and with their support and the lessons he continues to learn, he has been able to carve a niche in this sector.
Mitaa Africa is based in Atteridgeville in Tshwane and was founded in 2017. The company provides in-home, business and community broadband connections and fibre in Gauteng, a sector he considers very competitive. The company has not always found it easy operating in this market.
“There is a lot of red tapes to prevent us to own and sell internet in South Africa. I overcame this and many other challenges I came across with persistence and being well-informed,” he said. Mothiba said that his business journey started when he was a law student in 2014 and saw the need for technology in rural areas that would solve the problems rural-based businesses and farms faced.
These included transaction tracking, sales management, small-scale accounting, and stock management for rural-based businesses. He was especially keen to help farmers as one of his grandmothers owned a farm. “I worked to come up with solutions and I kept noticing problems that arose that prevented the project from progressing, chief of which was access to the internet,” he said.
“Luckily enough, both my grandmothers are entrepreneurs – one owns a spaza shop and the other owns a farm,” Mothiba said he then found a partner and pivoted the original business idea into the current business that provided internet access to rural communities. He was currently working on an e-commerce platform for the township- and rural-based entrepreneurs, he said.
Mothiba said one of the things he learned from his grandparents was that cash flow was key. “A business does not work in isolation. Everything they did in business involved the community, from giving loans to knowing suppliers very well for my grandmother’s spaza shop to knowing and being well-acquainted with members of the community, which is very important in the farming space,” he said.
“My grandparents were the first to recognise my entrepreneurship journey and helped me with small things like registering my business and making sure that I have a roof over my head so that I don’t spend money on rent. “The capital I got from family wasn’t much but I’m glad that I received support from my family because it got me started.” Mothiba said that entrepreneurs should be encouraged to develop their skills for the benefit of their businesses.
“We really underestimate what it means to have skills development as business owners and understanding how finances issues like cashflow work,” he said. “Without the right training from someone who does small business finance you won’t know how to handle your finances in my view. “Without basic training on sales and product, which I needed, an entrepreneur will be unable to develop and access opportunities.”