Q&A: Chivas Venture 2020 SA finalist shares tips for social entrepreneurs

Hustlenomics founder Nhlanhla Ndlovu replaces backyard shacks with affordable sustainable housing

23 March 2020 - 08:50
Nhlanhla Ndlovu with his Hustlenomics team.
Image: Supplied/Chivas Regal Nhlanhla Ndlovu with his Hustlenomics team.

Chivas Venture 2020 SA finalist Nhlanhla Ndlovu is the founder of Hustlenomics, a for-profit impact-driven social enterprise that works to replace informal backyard shacks with affordable sustainable housing using innovative building technology.

“We assist low-income households that cannot get access to traditional home improvement financing and give them the opportunity to own these structures using our innovative financing model. Our team comprises women and youth, and we upskill them by training them in interlocking brick manufacturing and sustainable building methods.

“We also use recycled builders rubble to manufacture our bricks to have environmental impact. Essentially, we replace informal backyard shacks in Soweto with affordable rental accommodation for backyard shack dwellers. This ultimately generates a stable and sustainable income for the homeowner.”

Nhlanhla Ndlovu's journey

Ndlovu, 35, was raised in a four-roomed house in Soweto, which he shared with his large family. Having to share such a small living space while going through all the growth stages of becoming a man, inspired and motivated him to build his own space in the family yard.

His bricklaying skills were put to the test while building a formal structure in the backyard, and he joined forces with friends who were skilled in plumbing and carpentry. Together they built his first structure in his own backyard, and it is this same structure that was recently used by the family to expand their living space and create a dignified home.

In 2005 he embraced an opportunity to upskill and qualify as a builder. From this experience, Ndlovu saw an opportunity for a business that would benefit others in the same way. He knew that many families in and around the townships across SA had the same need.

From here, the idea was born to focus on identifying low-income homes with backyard shacks that could benefit from being replaced with formal structures. Ndlovu started the business in 2015 and works from his home in Soweto.  

What advice would you give to someone starting his or her journey as a social entrepreneur? 

One of the most valuable things a budding social entrepreneur can do is to spend time developing himself or herself as a person while growing the business, as these go hand in hand. Personal development helps you develop a business confidently and allows you to develop further as your business grows.

Which characteristics would you say are absolutely necessary to social entrepreneurs to cultivate?

Passion, perseverance and steely resilience. You also absolutely need to have emotional intelligence.

What advice do you have for someone who already has an established social entrepreneurship start-up? 

Build a network for yourself and draw on it for support both on a business and personal level.

Explore the available platforms that help entrepreneurs develop their ideas into viable businesses — such as Chivas Venture — as these platforms support social entrepreneurs with great ideas and give them international exposure and access to mentorship, potential funders and investors.

Chivas Venture opened the door for Hustlenomics to access funding and to help accelerate our business and get into the market faster. Reach out to government agencies such as the National Development Agency (NDA), Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda), and the Innovation Hub, as these offer support and mentoring.

Entrepreneurs need to learn to collaborate instead of operating in silos because sharing experiences helps in avoiding similar mistakes. Collaboration is key.

Make sure you have a real passion for the broad social issue you want to resolve, because when the going gets tough your passion is the only thing that will keep you going.  

This article was paid for by Chivas Regal.