Boitumelo Mofikoe is a young man who grew up in one of South Africa’s townships. A soccer player by heart, and an accountant by profession. He is also passionate about entrepreneurs and small businesses.
BD: Please tell us about your upbringing.
BM: I grew up in the dusty streets of Sebokeng, a small township in the Vaal Triangle. I was raised by a single mother, but I never felt it as I grew up in a large family with my grandparents playing a huge role in my life as parents. I still have fond memories of my grandfather coming back from his night shift as a truck driver and he would have a box full of chocolates, chips, sweets and delicious treats that he would collect along his long distance routes. I remember how my mother would make sure that every December, my brothers and I go on a road trip to a new destination in order to get out of the township for a few days. I appreciated the fact that even though we were not rich and well off, I never felt it as we made it work with whatever we had and I was never a demanding child because my mother made me understand the value of money from a young age. My mother was a huge Orlando Pirates supporter, and I remember how she would drag my brothers and I to the stadium dressed in the full Orlando Pirates soccer kit even though we hardly knew what was going on in the field of play. This then led to my keen interest in soccer. I then started playing soccer at the age of 5 and became very good at it as it became a ritual to play every day after school when I would get home. The best part about it was that the soccer fields were literally in my back yard, so I had no excuse to miss practice.
BD: What kind of a household did you grow up in?
BM: I was raised by a single mother Moipone Mofikoe with the assistance of my grandparents in Sebokeng. I was fortunate in that we lived under the same roof with my grandparents which played a huge role when it came to discipline because my grandmother wouldn’t take any nonsense from my siblings and I. I remember how we would queue up for a good hiding after we had been naughty or came back home late after the street lights were on. It was a male dominated family environment as my siblings are males. I have a younger brother by the name of Keitumetse Mofikoe and my elder brother is Itumeleng Mofikoe both of which play a huge part in my life as we kept each other motivated.
BD: What were your school days like?
BM: My primary schooling was in a school called Pinedene Primary in Vanderbijlpark and that’s where the foundation was laid in both my soccer and academic career as I had really excellent teachers, mentors and soccer coaches that kept me focused and inspired me to push boundaries.
I then started going to soccer trials as I believed that I was going to be a professional soccer player and eventually my breakthrough came when I was selected to be part of the SAFA/Transnet Football School of Excellence for high schooling, the most prestigious soccer academy that’s responsible for producing some of the country’s greatest soccer players such as Steven Pienaar, Bernard Parket, Daine Klate and the list is endless. My fortunes changed as I was then on the path to be a professional soccer player. So all in all, my schooling days were mostly about my urge to be a soccer player rather than academic even though I was the top achiever every single year when it came to the prize giving ceremony.
BD: What inspired you to study accounting?
BM: I honestly wanted to be a professional soccer player as I was excelling in soccer and thought that once I matriculate there would be only one option for me which was to pursue soccer, however because I was in a soccer academy, we were forced to keep up with our studies and perform well in order to keep the scholarship from the school as you would be expelled if you fail twice in consecutive years. I then decided to take my studies seriously and as fate would have it, I started enjoying Mathematics, Business Economics and Accounting as I had brilliant teachers that made learning very fun. I then did extremely well in my matric year with an overall distinction pass and Top 3 honors in the region. It was then when my mother realized that I could do more than just pursue soccer which has a short life span. I then enrolled for accounting at Wits University and figured, since I’m going to study something, it may as well be accounting as I understood it very well and it didn’t help that my family wanted me to go the academic route. So I didn’t have it all figured out that I would study accounting, but I simply just followed my passion and what I did well in whilst I was in high school, which is why Chartered Accountancy found me
BD: If not accounting what would career path would you have followed?
BM: I would have been a professional soccer player. Soccer has always been my first love.
BD: To be able to study accounting, how hard did you have to work in high school?
BM: I’m one of these people that believe in hard work over smarts, so I’ve always worked hard for most of my life really. I would go over and above what I had to do in class and whenever work was allocated to us, I would always make sure I take on extra work and use my extra time to practice to a point where I couldn’t get it wrong, which is why my marks were always well above 90% in tests and exams. Let me emphasize the fact that I don’t consider myself highly intelligent, but I work incredibly hard to attain all that I have achieved.
BD: Please tell us about your experience at Macquarie?
BM: My time spent there was phenomenal! Not a lot of people get an opportunity to work for a global investment bank, doing what they love with extremely talented high performance individuals. It is at that company, that I realized the true power of an incredible work ethic because in global investment banks there is no such thing as working hours. Most times it wasn’t about how smart you worked, but you just had to work hard under extremely tight deadlines with tough clients that expect your work to be nothing short of perfect when the final product is ready as a result you would spend some nights at the office working around the clock. Being an equity analyst gave me a good grounding on the intricate details of how businesses work, how value is created, what to look out for when investing in companies and a general understanding of business as we analyzed companies and the markets in which they operate in order to determine which ones would perform relatively well and create value for investors.
It wasn’t all work though, as I had the opportunity to create strong global networks and create some lasting friendships with some of my former colleagues that are still going strong.
BD: Where does your eagerness to assist and inspire young entrepreneurs come from?
BM: Starting a business is a tough and lonely road with all the odds stacked against you as 70% of all startups fail within the first 3 years. Bearing in mind these stats and the fact that as a young person starting a business, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes along the way and some of the mistakes that you’re going to make can actually be avoided in order to minimize the risk of failure by proper guidance and mentorship. Having failed a number of times, I know the pain of believing in something so much and then actually seeing it all crumble, then having to pick yourself up again and come back stronger than ever before. I then made a decision that if there is a way in which I can help our youth minimize the risk of failure, I would take it upon myself to assist wherever I can, hence I’ve dedicated the past couple of years to inspiring, motivating and helping the youth build sustainable businesses.
BD: Where does your passion for small business come from?
BM: Entrepreneurship is definitely the solution to the high unemployment rate in SA as it’s estimated that by 2030, between 80%- 90% of new jobs will be created by SMME’s which is why I feel so strongly about small businesses making the leap into big businesses. If we channel more resources into small business and I’m talking about the public and private sector coming together in a concerted effort to help build and support these small businesses, most of the employment and slow GDP growth challenges we are currently facing would be significantly reduced. I’m therefore urging all big corporates that want to make a meaningful difference in building small business and contributing to the countries growth to play their part and if they don’t know how to channel their efforts or where to start, my team and I are ready to assist or direct you in the right path.
BD: With the current employment situation not just in South Africa, but in Africa as a whole, what does the youth need to be motivated enough to start creating employment rather than looking for it?
BM: I’m a stern believer in the good old phrase “Give a man a fish and you feed him for the day… But if you teach a man how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime” therefore I spend a lot of my free time mentoring and inspiring the youth through various platforms. These would include speaking at schools, mentoring one on one sessions, motivational messages on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram). I use these platforms to enlighten the youth and community about any opportunities that are available, I have videos on important entrepreneurship concepts that people need to understand and I help with personal development, as the most important tool that the youth have is the ability to use their mind and energy in the right way to be able to build. We’re living in a new era of disruption, chaos and opportunity and the conventional way of doing things that worked 10 years ago has changed. It’s no longer about getting a tertiary education and then using that to find a job, then working your way up the corporate ladder in order to someday make it onto the directors list. True radical economic transformation is going to come from us as the youth starting our own Shoprites, Bidvests, Group Fives etc. and not leaving our fate in the hands of recruitment companies that we hope will get us into these institutions.
BD: As a young black man, what are some challenges you faced that you see other young black men facing in your position?
BM: Social pressure. That’s the biggest mental barrier that young black men have to overcome. The pressure to be seen at certain places, dressed in a certain way, mingling with high profile people, fine dining, expensive cars, alcohol etc. All these things just to be perceived as having “made it” in life is the biggest destroyer of ambitious young men in the race to succeed. Mostly this kind of pressure comes off the back of social media and if you can wrap your head around the fact that 99% of what you see on social media is not real, then you’re well on your way to social freedom. I became free the day I realized that life is a marathon and most certainly not a sprint. The best thing to do is stay in your own lane and focus on creating the best version of yourself rather than trying to compare yourself with the social media illusions of success.
BD: How do you deal with criticism?
BM: For the longest time, I used to take criticism personally as I was a perfectionist and believed that everything that I did was free from err. After failing a couple of times, being criticized many times and realizing that I’m far from perfect It then dawned on me that instead of taking things personally, I needed to understand that whether you do good or bad, there will always be people that criticize you and if no one criticizes you for anything, then you’re not doing anything significant in life.
BD: What is the most rewarding part about working with young entrepreneurs?
BM: The most rewarding part has to be seeing the work that you put into a small business finally bearing fruit and the owner achieving business growth against all odds. Nothing excites me more than when a business that started from idea phase finally scales up past the million-rand turnover mark and starts employing people in the spirit of reducing unemployment in our country.
BD: Where to from here?
BM: Having just successfully exited from MyGrowthFund, I’ve just branched out on my own and launched a business growth consulting business helping businesses scale up with various clients across the different industries. My goal is to create 100 multimillion Rand businesses by 2030 and I’ve already picked 8 businesses that I’m working very closely with the management teams in order to assist them in growing turnover, profitability and cash flows. People that want more information on how I can assist their businesses can reach me on Boitumelomofikoe@gmail.com