From A Life of Crime to Now Making Environmentally-friendly Cleaning Products
“To be an entrepreneur is to be a risk-taker, and in order to take risk you must be courageous. Thus, courage is the chief cornerstone of a life of any entrepreneur,” says Khululekani Nyobole, a 26-year-old entrepreneur from Khayelitsha.
“Many dreams have been killed even before they came to life because of fear. Some people ask themselves what if I do not make it? But with courage you ask a different question i.e how can I make it? Therefore, having courage means I have opened wide a gate for greater possibilities.”
For Nyobole, having the courage to take the entrepreneurial leap not only helped turn his ideas into an enterprise, but probably also saved his life.
A Second Chance in Entrepreneurship
Nyobole is the founder of green startup, Nurturer which produces affordable, eco-friendly personal care products such as olive oil enriched cocoa butter, beauty soap, shower gel and shampoo as well as cleaning products including fabric softener, window cleaner, bleach, washing powder and dishwashing liquid for households and businesses.
His focus is mainly on low income households in the township – from grandmothers who look after entire families to upwardly-mobile young professionals who see the value of using eco-friendly products, he says.
Although the brand was introduced early this year, Nyobole says they are seeing a growing customer base largely due to their door-to-door sales model which allows agents to educate people about the value of their products.
Nyobole wants to make natural premium products accessible and affordable to all South Africans and to have them delivered right to their doorstep.
“Having best quality natural products distributed to low income communities has been my dream since 2013. I was born and raised in the township and I started questioning why people in low income communities do not have the option to buy affordable natural products that are healthy and safe for both humans and nature,” he says.
Owning a business is the last thing most people who knew Nyobole as a teen would have expected. He says he was caught up in a life of drugs and crime. He grew up in a troubled neighbourhood and looked up to gangsters as role models, he explains.
“You grow up thinking all that matters is to become the top dog. I did all sorts of drugs and I mean all sorts – cocaine, heroin, tik, mandrax, ecstasy. You name them, I have done them.”
In his bid to be like the gangsters he admired, Nyobole, together with his friends, also looked to a life of crime.
“Fear is something I never had. If it existed it was smeared by hot red iron. As I reflected back, I realized how much I did not respect and honor life. Even death did not scare me,” he says.
Khululekani Nyobole, founder of Nurturer showcasing his eco-friendly personal care and household products.
Letting Go of the Past
Nyobole’s wake-up call came after failing Grade 10 for a second time, he admits.
“Deep down I knew this loser I’d become wasn’t the real me. I tried really hard to distance myself from criminal activities. I knew I had the brains and that I am destined for greatness, so I persisted. I wanted to change but it was hard. People of my age were progressing in life and I was stagnant. I made a decision to go back to school and against all odds I completed my matric.”
It was this courage that saw Nyobole dust-off and pursue his destiny of becoming an entrepreneur, despite the scorn of his former friends.
And this time failure was not an option, he says and courage was the key he needed to make it through the transition.
“It is easy to fall back but hard to move forward. What assisted me is that I am an extremist. Whatever I do, I do it to the extreme and I do not accept failure.”
A Worthy Struggle
“A life of an entrepreneur requires resilience. The ability to be resolute when the situation is saying give up. Another thing that I learnt is patience. Impatient people are hardly successful. Lastly, dedication and commitment.”
This commitment has paid off, Nyabole is a recent graduate of the New Ventures Studio, an intensive eight-week entrepreneurship course combined with an incubator programme, with the aim of assisting young entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 to 35 to move from an idea or early business stage to a well formulated business model ready to be implemented.
The organisation also provides seed capital of R100 000 in startup services in exchange for 20% equity to selected startups.
New Ventures Studio alumni include startups such as MedMe, a technology driven healthcare startup that aims to ease the medical experience of patients before, during and after their procedures, Denarii, an outsourced financial management services provider in Cape Town that provides customised and affordable financial expertise to small and medium businesses as well as Yoba, a commercial fitness club targeting South Africa’s townships.
Nyabole is grateful about the support and investment he received from New Ventures Studio and says he has even higher hopes for this business. He is now dreaming of establishing a laboratory of his own to constantly develop new products.