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Three incredible entrepreneurs and their journey to success

Nov 16 2017 13:27

Source: WikiMedia

Success is seldom the result of just one individual’s talent, passion and drive. As critical as those elements are, very often a combination of the above along with existing social capital, family connections, education, mentorship, circumstances and sheer luck combine to create great stories of entrepreneurship and success. Reaching out to find advice, capital and support is never a bad idea. These three very different entrepreneurs did exactly that.

1. Sir Richard Branson

That was the case for legendary British businessman Richard Branson, who has written about the power of mentorship. Writing at, Branson salutes the mentors who helped him, not least a family friend who took him under his wing and helped him understand the basics of book-keeping. It certainly doesn’t sound exciting, but it’s the kind of detail that can sink otherwise brilliant ideas if not done properly.

Equally, when already successful by almost any measure and Branson was looking to get into the airline industry, it was another mentor – aviation veteran Sir Freddie Laker – who helped Branson understand the complexities of the market and get Virgin Atlantic into the skies.

“The first step to finding a good mentor, is of course, coming to terms with the fact that you actually can benefit from having one,” Branson writes.  “Going it alone is an admirable but foolhardy and highly flawed approach to taking on the world.”

2. Patrice Motsepe

Patrice Motsepe isn’t the entrepreneur you might think he is. How he became a mining magnate after spotting a gap in a technically complex area of mining, and used changing laws around ownership structures and
broad-based economic empowerment has been well documented. That he did it while doing the hard yards at a top Johannesburg law firm Bowman Gilfillan, where he was announced as the firm’s first black partner in 1994, isn’t so well known. Neither is it well known that Soweto-born Motsepe did not grow up wealthy, and that in fact his first and formative encounters with the mining industry were had behind the counter of his father’s spaza shop in Hammanskraal. The spaza, would develop into a beer hall and restaurant, and was popular with mineworkers. It was this interaction with the ordinary people of mining that would inspire him to create a remuneration package for his workers that allowed some share in the company’s profits on top of their basic wages.

“My father use to say that the family made a lot more money when I worked behind the counter, which I was doing from the time I was about five years old. But I realised very soon that I didn't want to be behind that counter my whole life. That is why I went to study law in the end,” he told the Sunday Times.

Today Motsepe is one of the country’s wealthiest men and a highly regarded mining entrepreneur, and he believes South Africa is a font of entrepreneurial talent.

3. Ludwick Marishane

Ludwick Marishane is happy to admit that his product, DryBath, is a solution to a problem he didn’t fully understand, but nonetheless credits South Africa with its creation. Marishane initially developed and patented DryBath, a gel that can be used to clean the body instead of water and soap, for use in poor communities that still rely on buckets for washing themselves.

At just 17 years old at the time, Marishane remains the youngest ever South African to be granted a patent.  However, it took him a while to understand the value of what he’d created. “We were selling the product on the basis of Use DryBath to Save Water,” Marishane told Ventureburn.

“We decided to start doing more market research,” he said. “About 40% of our customers were using DryBath outdoors when they went camping. The other 60% is made up of guys going into the office, house wives, and people traveling abroad.”

Marishane suggests that sometimes money isn’t what entrepreneurs need – it’s advice and mentorship at a critical stage of the development of their business.

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