BD: Briefly tell us who Thapelo Mmusinyane is.
TM: I am a 35 year old male from a small a town called Taung, in the North West . I am currently the Head of Real Estate at the Ethekwini Municipality. Academically, I hold a National Diploma in Real Estate and Postgraduate Diploma in Business Management, professionally I am a Professional Valuer. I am married to my beautiful wife Nthabiseng Mmusinyane.
BD: What was your upbringing like?
TM: We were raised together with my older brother, Boitumelo by our single mother, Kelebogile, who worked as cleaner at a local hotel, we grew up in a 2 room rented house. Our mother worked shifts so we had to learn how to cook, do our laundry when we were young, I could cook when I was 11 years old. Like any other family with a single parent we struggled, we were mostly limited to necessities. My mother was strict, so we knew that we had to account for our actions, she used to scare by saying she would not pay bail for us if we were to get arrested, so we always stayed out of trouble.
BD: It cannot be easy being brought up in a single headed household, what are some of your early childhood memories?
TM: Visiting my grandparents where we used to look after livestock goats, sheep and cows and the scary stories my grandfather used to tell us around the fire during winter. The games we used to play with my friends, there was a season for everything, playing with cars, marbles, soccer etc.
BD: What were your school days like?
TM: In primary I was a very famous goalkeeper and I used to get my clothes dirty and my brother would be so annoyed when people told him about my diving skills. In secondary I was always on the list of noise makers. I was a captain of the under 15 school team. In high school, I moved to Gauteng and I was a bit reserved because I was too small and everyone kept mistaking me for a grade 6 learner whereas I was in matric. I played soccer, I was hardly in any sort of trouble.
BD: It sounds like you had a lot of fun, after completing high school, did you go to any tertiary institution?
TM: Yes, I studied at the old Wits Technikon. The year I graduated was when the merger became effective and was it renamed University of Johannesburg.
BD: How did you come to know about real estate?
TM: Initially I wanted to study drama but I was told that they wouldn’t pay for such a thing, so I applied to study marketing at Wits Tech. I wrote an aptitude test and I got a regret letter indicating that they were full but suggesting that I should study Real Estate. At the time the only thing I knew about Real Estate was Estate Agency. It was actually my older brother who saw the letter and wrote me 2 pages advising me to study Real Estate.
TM: A property developer is someone who buys land and builds a real estate property on it. Or, it could be someone who buys a real estate property that is in a very distressed condition and needs major renovations. He/she then applies these renovations and sells the property to a real estate investor. This might be the easiest way to explain what a real estate developer is. Basically, they develop a property from, almost, scratch.
BD: How did your experience as a property developer help you upon starting your own business?
TM: A lot , development evaluation requires assessment of a great number of criteria, funding can be difficult to secure, purchases and sales can take considerable time, and developments can require a great deal of management. One requires a great deal of expert knowledge in subjects such as property and land evaluation, investment analysis, funding mechanisms, property law and planning etc. So skills equipped to able to start the property portfolio and those are skills that are first nature to me due to my qualifications and skills. That broad understanding of the property value chain does come in handy.
BD: As someone who grew up in the in the village, how did that impact your work ethic, positively and negatively?
TM: I think it impacted on my work ethic positively, I was raised with very strict rules and values.
BD: For a young person wanting to get into real estate, what would you advise them?
TM: If you want to study Real Estate, pure maths is compulsory. If you want to get into the real estate business there are introduction courses that will be helpful in understanding the various aspects of real estate.
BD: What are some lessons you learnt about being an entrepreneur?
TM: Don’t get into property if you trying to make a quick buck. You need a lot of patience. You don’t invest now and expect returns today. It needs patience and discipline.
BD: Are there any challenges you faced upon becoming an entrepreneur?
TM: For me, it has been having a very demanding 9 to 5 job and juggling being a property entrepreneur, it’s not a walk in the park, it’s very demanding.
BD: How did you overcome those?
TM: I had to learn and perfect prioritization and managing my time well.
BD: That sounds like a solid strategy, how do you deal with criticism?
TM: I don’t take things personally, I always take the lesson and move forward.
BD: What keeps you going?
TM: Wanting to improve and do better than yesterday, last week, last month, last year.