Lebo Gunguluza, a South African from a poor family, was full of lofty ideas and ambitions. He was obsessed with success and would go to any length to ensure that whatever he touched produced massive results.
Inspired by the stories of great black billionaires and entrepreneurs from Africa and elsewhere, Gunguluza set a goal for himself to become a millionaire by the age of 25, but he failed. At the age of 27, he became a millionaire, making him one of South Africa’s youngest self-made millionaires.
His path to becoming a successful entrepreneur was long and difficult, but he persevered. Economic pressures from his family fueled his desire to earn enough money to not only lift his family out of poverty, but also to create jobs for others.
He began his career at the South African Broadcasting Corporation as a sales executive (SABC). His performance at SABC resulted in him being promoted twice in two years and becoming marketing manager for Metro FM by the age of 24.
After a failed attempt to upgrade his broadcasting skills in the United States, he later entered the advertising industry. He joined advertising outcasts Herdbuoys. Despite his lucrative salary, Gunguluza desired more than simply working for others.
He started mulling various entrepreneurial ideas, including his ability to organize big parties. “I was really good at throwing big parties at home,” he told Leader. “Why was I getting all these people to eat my food and drink my alcohol for free when I could be making money from them?”
Gunguluza subsequently quit Herdbuoys and the comfort of a monthly pay cheque to launch his first business called Gunguluza Entertainment. With no cash flow to sustain the business, he leveraged his sales skills to win contracts.
“There was a nightclub called Insomnia in Sandton that was not doing too well. I approached the owners and told them I would bring the crowds if they let me take the door. That way they could make their money by selling drinks.”
He earned $500 (R7,000) on his first night and continued to earn around $400 per event. After someone replicated what he was doing, Gunguluza changed the nature of his business. He began booking artists he had grown to know over the years and quickly rose to prominence as a talent manager.
He used his success in event management and hosting to launch other businesses, including investments in media, hospitality, technology, and real estate. For example, he bought a stake in a media company and tripled its revenue by increasing sales and marketing. In addition, he collaborated with Uhuru Communications, the publisher of SAA’s Sawubona magazine.
Gunguluza purchased a stake in several hotels and established a car rental business. According to Leader, Gunguluza’s business empire is worth millions of dollars, making him a millionaire in South Africa. Gunguluza lost his fortune in 1999 but recovered. That inspired him to establish the South African Black Entrepreneurs Forum (SABEF) in 2008 to educate young Black entrepreneurs on the importance of having a business plan and keeping cash on hand.
Meanwhile, the celebrated businessman joined the panel of Dragon’s Den, a South African television show that grooms young entrepreneurs.