#RIPRichardMaponya: Lessons for Entrepreneurs


Today, we lost a giant, the larger than life icon, the founding father of black retail business in SA, Richard Maponya. All my childhood icons are going but I thank God that I've lived in their time so that I can prepare for my time. Their light really guides us and ntate Maponya is one of those man. He dreamed big and fearlessly took risks that paid off.  What a way to live life!

“My idea was to show that if Blacks were given the opportunity, they could succeed as much as their white counterparts,” said ntate Maponya in an interview.

So here is a quick history of this beloved man:

Dreaming big, Richard Maponya started out small selling clothing offcuts. Continuing to grow Soweto’s economy, Maponya also established Maponya Motor City on Klipspruit Valley Road in Orlando East. This was the first such business in the south of Johannesburg, and now the Maponya Group’s ventures include property development, horse racing and breeding, retail, automotive sales, filling stations and liquor stores.

Today, ntate Maponya passed away owning the massive Maponya Group and Soweto’s first major shopping centre, Maponya Mall.

As Leon Louw said, ntate Maponya anguished originally about apartheid oppression and, thereafter, about post-apartheid dependency. During his latter years, he lamented what he saw as two great obstacles to black advancement: an apparent lack of rugged risky entrepreneurship and a tsunami of stifling regulation.

He feared risk-free dependence on government largesse and patronage. His view of government resembled a mother feeding a baby with one hand and throttling it with the other.

He advocated and funded entrepreneurship training. Emerging entrepreneurs, he believed, were being (and should be) taught, not only technical skills: record-keeping, stock control, marketing, budgeting etc, but also entrepreneurship. He espoused a culture of self-sufficiency, risk-taking, determination to recover from failure, innovation, savings and the like.

He wanted government to appreciate that many laws and practices victimise emerging entrepreneurs and small business. Black people, he told me, are victims twice over: from the legacy of apartheid, and from post-apartheid over-regulation and dependency.

Currently, the climate is tough for any new business but it doesn't mean that you need to give up or give in.

Lessons for Entrepreneurs

“I’m concerned with what I see – how our young entrepreneurs are believing that they’re entitled to certain things instead of them waking up and working and achieving something, and when you’re having difficulties, then asking for assistance.”

“We need to create jobs for our people. That is my primary objective. I have been blessed beyond measure and am able to put food on the table; I want the same for others.”
“As an entrepreneur, you should always know when you have made money and the business won’t be worth your energy anymore. It doesn’t mean it has failed, it means you have dug everything you can from it and it is time for something new that may make you more money.”

“I wasn’t born to be an entrepreneur, I learned to be one. I don’t think anyone is born to be an entrepreneur, you learn. I looked at the young boys of my age, when I was young, managing their father’s businesses and I had to go and say ‘baas’ to small boys like that? No, I was not going to allow it. I told myself I am going to create a business for myself and also create jobs like they do.”

“I looked at people as people, not as numbers. When I meet with you, when you come into my business place, I would ask your for your name, if you come again, I will welcome you as Mr So and So.”

"It [BEE] is not a real thing because it takes away the self-initiative needed from young and up and coming entrepreneurs who must wake up and want to do the things themselves. Broad-Based Black economic empowerment (BBBEE) was a good idea in principle, but in practice it did not always work."

“As they grow their businesses (entrepreneurs) they address poverty as well. Believe you me, with more people creating job opportunities – this country could turn around overnight and the kind of poverty we see will be a thing of the past. I’m hoping I can see this happening in my lifetime,” Maponya said.


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