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5 entrepreneurs share what they have had to give up to launch their businesses

The rarely talked about personal sacrifices that come with being an entrepreneur


The decision to pursue the entrepreneurial path comes with no shortage of sacrifices. 

While the focus of most discussions on the topic usually centre on the more financial aspects, the personal sacrifices made by entrepreneurs - from the loss of personal relationships and leisure and family time - can have as much impact as the loss of income. 

A 2015 survey conducted by Sagefocusing on the sacrifices made by entrepreneurs around the world found that many South African entrepreneurs work beyond the standard industry hours, with some 51% of South African business owners working more than 40 hours a week and 22% working more than 50 hours a week. 

Business owners reported that they had compromised on their family time and relationships to grow their business. Around 44% of local business owners said they have chosen their work over their family and 26% have taken less than five days holiday in the last year. A quarter admits that their personal relationships have been affected while making their business successful.  

SME South Africa speaks to 5 business owners to find out the extent of their personal sacrifices and if it is, at the end, worth it. 

Maite Makgoba

"I have sacrificed a lot of my personal finances" - Maite Makgoba, founder of Childish Trading and Manufacturing, a doll manufacturing company
What does being an entrepreneur mean to you? 
It means being a game changer, dreamchaser, someone who wants to take control of their own destiny.

What personal sacrifices have you had to make as an entrepreneurI have sacrificed a lot of my personal finances, money that could be used for traveling or luxuries. 

Even though we [are] making a profit, I have to re-invest it in the business in order to expand our ambitions and that is one of the big sacrifices besides the time.



Michael Bowren

"You sacrifice short-term income for long-term gain" - Michael Bowren, CEO of Fincheck, an online financial comparisons site
What does being an entrepreneur mean to you? 
Freedom! No, not actually - this is the greatest misconception about being an entrepreneur. Being an entrepreneur means the excitement of being able to steer your own ship. The speed at which you hit the market is up to you, the direction your company moves is also up to you.  

What sort of impact has being an entrepreneur had on your lifeBefore you decide to move into your own business, people warn you that this will stunt your growth in corporate and [that] you will lose time climbing the 'ladder'. Strictly speaking this is true - however, I am now climbing another ladder, in another direction. This ladder offers insight into a whole new sector, network and profession. 

What personal sacrifices have you had to make as an entrepreneur? There are two notable sacrifices I made. Short-term income - this is the obvious one. [A] business takes a time to develop and sustainable business takes longer. You sacrifice short-term income for long-term gain.

Security - there is no buffer between success and failure. In corporate, if you manage a product or the development of a new product for your company, if that product fails, to some extent it is ok - your company still continues and you still have a job. As an entrepreneur, your project is your company, revenue, and business. If this fails you are unemployed.

What do wish you had known starting outPivoting - generally speaking, the product you begin with is not the product you will end up producing. You need to have a big goal at the end - and you meander your way there. 


Shannon Weber

"There are a million things that no one tells you" - Shannon Weber, managing director of The District, a marketing and advertising agency
What personal sacrifices have you had to make as an entrepreneur? When you decide to take the plunge, you have to give up what most label a normal, regular life. It [has] definitely impacted on my relationships, weekends and how I choose to spend my spare time. 

What have been some of the highs on your entrepreneurial journeyThe most memorable thing about being an entrepreneur has been all of the 'first times'. Winning our first piece of business, hitting our first million, hiring our first employee, getting our first office. I consider myself a really lucky person, as there is always a next first time and it keeps you inspired to push for that next goal.

What do wish you had known starting out? There are a million things that no one tells you about starting your own business. You become an instant high risk and getting even the smallest amount of finance or financial backing becomes an enormous, if not impossible task. You need to put very good processes into place and you need to become a jack of all trades.


Langa Sangoni

"I downsized all areas of my life" - Langa Sangoni, founder, and CEO of Apple Green International -  a waste management company
What sort of impact has being an entrepreneur had on your lifeIt has impacted all the areas of my life, from my belief system (religion), family, work, to my leisure or downtime, I am always having an entrepreneurial mindset.

What are some of the personal sacrifices you had to make in your business? I had to sell all my personal belongings including our family home, downsize in all areas including having to go and rent back in the township whilst building up the business, my wife and family have been with me all the way. I had to also put my reputation on the line, most people always want to be seen as being successful and not failures - in the beginning, you seem like a failure when you struggle to get going - the cost was but part of the entrepreneurial journey.

What do wish you had known starting out? That finding the right people to work with (employees, business partners, customers, and suppliers.) Will be your biggest struggle - it is not just about making the money.


James Huff

"A white knuckle ride" - James Huff, co-founder of Live-Easy, Johannesburg-based property development company
What sort of impact has being an entrepreneur had on your life? 
It's enlightened my ability to see opportunities when perhaps others might not, particularly in the field of real estate. There is a fortune of underperforming real estate assets around this country that can be put to more sustainable and valuable use for those that really need it.   

What personal sacrifices have you had to make as an entrepreneur? Comfort - it's easy to be comfortable. Being entrepreneurial is truly a white knuckle ride, things can be great, and something they are less than great. It can be a very humbling experience.    

What have been some of the highs on your entrepreneurial journey? I enjoy the excitement that comes with it. It's a joy of conceptualising an idea and then work hard to make that idea a reality. And when you see how that reality impacts positively on people, that's hugely memorable.   

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