Cornerstone Staff Portraits 2018 290. thulani

Tthulani Dube

In South Africa they are faced with various complex issues on a day-to-day basis

IT IS VERY important to acknowledge that entrepreneurs in South Africa are faced with various complex issues on a day-to-day basis. Our nation’s unique socio-economic terrain requires them to be fully aware of the opportunities and threats that present themselves on all levels. They will need to possess and exhibit certain characteristics and competencies to survive and grow in an ever evolving South Africa.

‘’Why?” is a good starting point for anyone venturing into business. Why am I starting a business? Why do I think it will succeed? This is a “why” that requires brutally honest answers. Entrepreneurs will need to start by looking deep within themselves and making objective assessments.


It’s a level of emotional intelligence that many successful entrepreneurs tend to have. It’s a level of awareness that allows successful entrepreneurs to understand and manage emotions in an effective and positive manner that will add value to their intended initiatives, manage their business by understanding the environment around them and thinking in a way that takes into consideration the ecosystem that they operate in.


Most small businesses will fail in their first year for a number of reasons, including the inability to fully access respective markets, lack of funding as well as poor financial expertise and guidance. More often than not, individuals tackle the journey of entrepreneurship because of factors such as wanting to be in control of ones work schedule, the drive for additional income or because of unemployment. These kinds of aspiring entrepreneurs jump into the sea of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity that is entrepreneurship.


I recently had the pleasure of listening to two lectures by entrepreneurs who have managed complexity well and grew their organisations in environments that initially presented themselves as hostile. Sandi Cesko (founder of Studio Moderna and Slovenia) and Ray Youssef (founder of Paxful) both admit that their journey to success was focused on catering to the existing needs of the customer.


Entrepreneurs often fail by working on solving a problem that does not exist. An entrepreneur’s quest is not only to find a gap in the market, but also find the market in that gap.


By ensuring that they are solving a real and immediate problem they are ensuring the sustainable growth of their initiative. The aim: Identify a problem and to solve it effectively and efficiently because sustainability and success are built on problem solving.


When mapping out their offering the question that should be at the top of their mind is the question of whether value was being added to the customer. Value manifests in a variety of ways such as convenience, cost and quality, among other factors.


One would argue that the process is more complicated than deciding simply what is needed and then doing it. However, if the success of entrepreneurs rests on building simplified user solutions then the same can be said for the business side of things. Simplicity must prevail in designing, managing and building systems.


Additionally, (aspiring) entrepreneurs need to be adaptive in every situation. Speed of change and speed of relationships is extremely important if they’re to keep their innovative edge. Speed of relationship helps bring together a diverse mix of mind-sets which powers the entrepreneurial drives. Diversity through speed of relationships drives a culture of learning, an important characteristic that any entrepreneur should have.

  • Thulani Dube is the Entrepreneurship and Economic Transformation Faculty Programmes co-ordinator and Business Studies lecturer at Cornerstone Institute.
  • Originally published in The Cape Argus on Wednesday, 27 November 2019.