Sibongile Manganyi-Rath is a South African entrepreneur who went from peddling on the street to developing a multimillion-dollar company. She was born into an entrepreneurial family, which influenced her decision to pursue self-employment.
As a child, she helped her late father sell used bottles to larger firms like Makro and other glass bottle recycling agents. She learned vital entrepreneurial lessons at a young age, which helped her establish a thriving multi-million dollar venture years later.
“My father unwittingly set me on the path very early,” Sibongile told Entrepreneur. “I often joke with people that my father was in the recycling business before it became fashionable.”
She acquired the value of customer service when she was 12 years old and worked at one of her father’s fresh vegetable kiosks at the Dube Village train station. According to her, she was responsible for observing why their sales were dropping or increasing, and each evening she reported the daily revenue to her father, which was frequently in the area of R150 (now $8) every day.
“I also had to make recommendations on improvements to ensure that we could offer better fruits and veggies than the other older ladies that were next to our stalls. At the time I didn’t realise the value of the lessons I was learning from this process. It is these lessons that gave me the courage to quit my job in 2006 and start my own company,” she said.
Manganyi-Rath left her corporate career at the age of 26 to pursue full-time entrepreneurship. She founded Indigo Kulani Group, an infrastructure and real estate development firm, in a field widely seen to be dominated by men. With a turnover of more than R100 million (now $5 million), the company, which has now expanded to include IKG Start-up Capital, is dedicated to creating world-class entrepreneurs across the African continent, she told Entrepreneur.
Manganyi-Rath has made significant contributions to South African society through different infrastructure initiatives, notably the construction of more than 200 schools in rural South Africa. According to her, her organization has also been involved in the construction and management of clinics, housing, and water and sanitation projects in many formerly impoverished regions.
Her advice to others who want to be like her is to “keep your vision, but let your strategy be flexible.” She also wants aspiring entrepreneurs to cultivate a spirit of cooperation and collaboration with others, as well as find free advisors.
“Talk to venture capitalists and private equity guys, there is always someone willing to not only invest their money but their ideas, experience and networks. But, be open to give a little bit of equity; it has to be worth their while,” she advised.
Manganyi-Rath, an IMD Executive MBA alumna and award-winning entrepreneur, was recently named Africa’s most influential woman in business by CEO magazine.