Artist and businessman Sonwabile Mngenela was thrilled after winning a national entrepreneurship competition - in which he competed against eight others - hosted by Cida City Campus and Virgin chief executive Richard Branson.
Mngenela, 29, originally from the rural town of Matatiele in Eastern Cape, started his company, Mngenela Promoters, in 2004. It specialises in manufacturing unique ceramic products such as tea and dinner sets, ornaments and pots.
The company, with an employee base of 18 people, "produces ceramic products on a daily basis and we supply these to wholesalers around Johannesburg and Pretoria", says Mngenela.
Mngenela, who hopes to build a proper warehouse in Soweto to expand his business, studied ceramics at Wits Technikon. He was mentored by the Branson School of Entrepreneurship linked to Cida City Campus.
"Young people should be themselves and focus on their future to succeed," he says.
Mngenela's company completed a sculpture of former president Nelson Mandela. It was presented to Mandela at Houghton home by the June 16 Foundation and is on display in Mthatha, Eastern Cape.
"It is a conceptualised sculpture in which Mandela receives the body of Hector Pietersen. It's just a conceptualised artwork that made sense to him. He was very happy to see it," Mngenela said.
Mngenela is delighted that he is able to make a living while doing what he loves.
He says it was not easy at the beginning because he had to apply at various institutions for funding before he could start his business.
"But if you come up with a completely different business idea that people are not used to, the funders, especially foreign ones, get interested," Mngenela said.
"I'm very disappointed that I didn't get funding from a local institution, yet people from overseas, when they come here, realise that this young person's dream is realistic and and can come true.
"I get motivated when I see myself employing more people," says Mngenela.
Not only did Mngenela win R10000 in the competition, he says he also received offers to further his business studies abroad. He also stands a chance of acquiring possible funding to the tune of R1,5million (from Branson and his business partners), which I want to invest in the business". - Sowetan Online