We spoke to Teboho Zongola, a young man from a small town in the Eastern Cape. In his words, he is inspired by the man he will be in the next years, because his passion is in business.
BD: Who is Teboho Zongola?
TZ: I am a young man from a small town in the Eastern Cape called Matatiele. I’m currently studying towards my Advanced Diploma in Marketing at Nelson Mandela University. I am also the founder of The Perfect Smoothie which was born in 2016 but only formally registered in 2018 as it was only a holiday business until last year 2018 when we got a spot to sell on campus. I then decided to register as a company.
BD: What are some of your earliest childhood memories?
While writing of this article, one of my earliest child hood memories that surfaced was being left alone with my sister at home whilst my mom had gone to town. We would get up to a lot of mischief. It was very rare not to get a hiding when my mother returned from wherever she had gone. My sister has always been my partner in crime. Even when I sold smoothies for the first time, it was at Matat’s annual Jazz festival; my sister was there with me. I don’t think she knows how much I appreciate her. We grew up together, experienced a lot of things in life together even to this day we still do life together. One of my fondest memories of school was when I used to sell popcorn, lollipops and sweets at school and in our school transport. I appreciate those moments so much because they were training for me to be an entrepreneur. Insignificant at the time but to think of it today, I was a businessman. Everyday when I get back home, I’d have to account to my mom as I had to cash up. Little did I know this was a glimpse of what was to come.
Indeed! In Grade 10 I got an academic scholarship to one of the best schools in the country, Kearsney College. I thank God for academic ability as I was always among the top learners in my class growing up. Going into high school I had always wanted to be an engineer for as long as I can remember and my science and mathematics were always on par. I passed my matric quite well and I got accepted in to Nelson Mandela University for Mechanical Engineering fulfilling a long held goal but things didn’t go well for me in engineering and I ended up dropping out in my second year. During this struggle with engineering, my love for business was growing day by day; ignited by the books I was reading, Rich Dad Poor Dad being one of them. After dropping out of varsity I pursued a network marketing business venture but things didn’t go well for me there either! I then decided to come back to varsity and do a course that’s business related, that woul allow me to have some ventures on the side.
BD: How did the birth of The Perfect Smoothie come about?
In 2016’s annual Jazz festival in Matatiele I registered to be a vendor but I didn’t know what to sell. I got the smoothie idea while bouncing ideas around and I went for it because it was summer and so I felt business would boom as smoothies are a cold beverage and it was a rare idea as well which meant I was unlikely to encounter a direct competitor. I named my stall “The Perfect Smoothie”.
BD: How did it go?
I’d never seen smoothies being sold except in retail. I had also seen my mom make some for us at home as she is a very health-conscious individual but now selling them was a different ball-game. With my sister helping me out that night we made a fair amount of sales but we still had a lot of stock remaining. I then decided to go to town the following day and finish off the stock there. After quite a few rejections from store owners to allow me to plug my extension cord and use their electricity even though I offered to pay them. One store owner by the name of John finally agreed. I was so excited and I wasted no time in setting up my stuff and started selling there outside John’s shop. I still keep contact with him to this day. That first day was such a success that I decided to continue for the duration of my December holidays. Each year in December, this has become my vac work as our smoothies grew in popularity around Matat. Last year I approached the university and asked for a spot on campus. By God’s grace I was granted a place at the campus that I’m in which is Second Avenue campus in Nelson Mandela University, so we’ve been operating from there to date.
BD: How are operations at The Perfect Smoothie?
TZ: I normally say that everyone can make a smoothie but not everyone can make a perfect smoothie. We are constantly working and trying to improve the quality and taste of our smoothies as a result our smoothies continue to evolve and get better. Our customers are a testament of this as they are blown away every time they purchase a smoothie. This sets us apart from our competitors and other retailers that sell smoothies. We make over 400 smoothies every month, which is roughly 100 smoothies a week, mainly to students and staff of Nelson Mandela University.
TZ: One of the biggest challenges for most student entrepreneurs is trying to balance their studies with their businesses and I also experienced this challenge but I have now managed to find a way around it. It’s quite true that human beings are adaptive creatures. When we are pushed into a corner and have no other choice but to find a way, our survival instincts kick in and we do any and everything possible to find a way and we’ll eventually find it.
BD: It can’t be easy balancing school work and business?
Delegation has been my way of coping. At the rate the business is growing, I simply cannot run The Perfect Smoothie by myself. I therefore have two ladies, students, as well that I have employed. They enjoy their job and that makes things so much easier for me as I’m able to trust them over more responsibilities thereby giving me time to pay attention to my studies and other things that need my attention.
BD: One can assume that smoothies are “summer drinks”. If this is the case, how do you maintain relevance in winter?
TZ: Yes, smoothies are more viable in summer but they still do sell in winter as well. We have added coffee to our mix to offset the lost sales as it is winter now and smoothie sales have declined a bit. What this has taught me is that if you are in business you constantly have to be adapting and change strategies if need be. You change with the times. These are survival instincts again at play.
BD: Besides “The Perfect Smoothie”, do you have any other interests? Please elaborate on those.
TZ: I’m a person who is passionate about business, the art of creating something out of nothing and watching it grow. That gives me goosebumps! So my passion is not really smoothies but business. I have a love for health as well that’s why I believe we are in a great business that has a bright future in an industry that is growing at a very high rate.
BD: With the high unemployment statistics, especially among youth, how in your opinion can we motivate other youth to rather focus on creating employment opportunities, than being employed by someone else?
TZ: I think our youth need to be inspired first more than anything and inspiration starts with awareness. And awareness is basically imparting knowledge on someone. Therefore young people first need to be taught about the opportunity of entrepreneurship and why it is important in this day of very high unemployment. The education system would do this best if they incorporated entrepreneurship at school level. With the rate of entrepreneurship awareness I think it won’t be long before it starts being incorporated at school but it is everyone’s responsibility to see to it that this happens, not only the government.
BD: As a young entrepreneur, what do you know now, that you wish you knew prior to starting your own company?
TZ: Honestly I don’t have any regrets as far as The Perfect Smoothie is concerned. When starting I was armed with enough knowledge to get me going then. A year later, I can say that I am a better entrepreneur than I was then and I’m grateful for the lessons I learn everyday in running my business. I will be a better entrepreneur in five years time than I am today. And I think that’s how life was meant to be; to be continually growing and becoming who we were created to be.
BD: What advice do you have for any young person wanting to be an entrepreneur?
TZ: Don’t wait until the perfect time to get started. If you have an idea, you can start. If you don’t have an idea, look for one and start! The “perfect time” is a pigment of our imagination. It does not exist.
TZ: In 5 years, The Perfect Smoothie will have its second outlet outside of campus which will be a health restaurant franchise as we are looking to evolve into a health restaurant.
BD: What motivates you?
TZ: My purpose motivates me. I know I was born to do something great on this earth and a big part of it revolves around business. What motivates me is who I will be in 20, 30, 50 years down the line. I’m working against the clock and when my time is over on this earth I’m going to have to give an account of what I did with my life, and ultimately we all do, and I want to be proud and unafraid when I give my account.