My name is Ntsapokazi Carol Mhlauli. I’m originally from Eastern Cape, in a small town called Butterworth, in South Africa. I came to Pretoria city in 2005. I have a BSC Hons in Computer Science. I am a brand strategist and a marketing consultant by profession. I worked for Telkom for so many years and I became a project Manager for Portfolio, Architecture and Innovation. I resigned from Telkom in 2013 to focus on my own business full time.
I have been a business focused marketer who enjoys bringing together analytical and creative thinking to solve problems? From general business strategy to brand building and marketing planning, I work directly with business owners to unlock growth by assessing the current state of the brand, the strategy, understand the target customer through research, analysis, internal company strengths, review competitor offerings, define the brand story, briefing and managing graphic design and consolidate brand guidelines.
I sit as an ex-officio and brand strategist on the boards of various Non- Profit organizations, Private Companies, Co-Operatives, business and startups to assist them build their strategy and their brand portfolios on an ongoing basis. I am currently based in Pretoria but travels wherever business takes me. That’s what I love doing.
I am also a member and a volunteer of the African Union Youth Commission in Addis Ababa and am actively involved in entrepreneurship Programmes across the African continent.
I have participated in most of youth development programs in Ethiopia such as ICT week summit, African Solidarity Initiative under Peace and Security Initiative. I am an ex- Vice Chairperson of ICT Committee and Outreach. I dedicate my free time to mentoring and coaching young entrepreneurs to create sustainable long-term businesses and be better people for tomorrow.
How did it all start?
I had always had passion for business and I knew from a young age that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. My father was a farmer always selling vegetables from the farm, that’s where I drew my inspiration in business. In the early days when I was still an employee I used to sell second hand clothing from the boot of my car. I would travel to various places like Durban, Cape Town seeking new opportunities and buying new stock. I remember at one time sleeping in my car in South Beach because I didn’t have enough money to book a hotel but through it all God protected me and at some point, I thought that I would end up in retail because I knew a lot about retail business. But I am busy entering that field now with a new project from which am very excited about hopefully it will hit the shelves very soon.
The growing pains of being your own boss
If you’re looking for a glamorous lifestyle, don’t choose an entrepreneurial career path. Being an entrepreneur is the hardest thing I have ever done. Many people take time to judge us based on what they can see on the outside but forget the battles we fight on the inside.
I know it all. I have experienced some of the most hideous things ever. Painful and shameful things which have tested the integrity of my journey and should I have been timid, I wouldn’t have any story to tell. The wind that blows and leave you with doubt and uncertainty of what is going to happen to you. I know what it means to not have a shelter over your head because you invested so much in your dreams and you willing to risk it all.
I know what it means not to have even R10.00 to buy data and follow up on prospective clients. I know what it means to order a glass of water in a restaurant because the last R20 you have is your last ticket to get you home. I know what it means to use cheap foundation make-up because you can’t afford a full kit of BLACK-UP or ESTEE’LAUDER and all the other finer things women desire in life. I know what it means to delay response to your emails because you still hustling for a free wifi spot. I know what it means to be on Facebook free mode because you saving the little data you have for important messages and emails. I know what it means to use one handbag meeting after meeting because you can’t afford to pick up the best quality bag you’ve always wanted. I know what it means to work in the lobbies and free spaces because you can’t afford an office. I know it all.
I used to stand at robots in Pretoria and surroundings areas distributing my business flyers. At times I would bump into people I used to work with at Telkom. I tell you, it was not a nice feeling, but yhaaa…what can I say. The road to entrepreneurship is hard. I don’t even want to think about my dress code at the time. I had lost my image but it was still me. I was simply paying the price for my dreams.
In the bible, the apostle Paul said; “I know how to be RICH and I know how to be POOR”. Being an entrepreneur is about embracing this text fully, these testing stages of life to see how far you can go. Your endurance is the ultimate key factor to determine whether you have the game or not. I kept the faith and I passed all my tests.
It’s been a long road. Some of the lessons have been painful but they now define me. I always remind myself that things are not always as they seem. I enjoy Eckhart Tolle, who says, ‘This too shall pass.” One must remember that it’s possible to make the most of every situation. It’s been a worthwhile journey and I have a great team working with me — it’s our team that makes every day worthwhile. They’re so loyal and supportive of each other and the brand — I admire each of them and feel so blessed that we came to work together; that our paths crossed.
With my wealth of experience in business, sales and marketing, customer service etc. I started my company Masazie Holdings Pty Ltd back in 2012. Masazie Holdings (Pty) Ltd has is an investment company even though we currently do import and export services in the field of grains, minerals and petroleum products. Our company is officially registered in Kenya,- Masazie Holdings Kenya Limited, in Zimbabwe- Masazie Commodities Pvt Ltd and have presence in many African countries like Zambia, Malawi, Botswana, DRC, Mozambique and Lesotho. I also founded 7 subsidiaries operating across South Africa in areas of Business Consulting, Corporate Branding, Driving Academy, Logistics, Mining, Properties, Vehicle parts, Petroleum.
When I first started my own business, I struggled a lot with securing startup capital from local banks and investors. I run out of money. I owed almost everyone I could think off. This is the problem for many entrepreneurs when first trying to establish a new business venture. “It’s the same old banking story – if you have no money they won’t give it to you; if you have money, they want to throw more at you. Nevertheless, when you believe in your dream you do whatever it takes to make it work. You don’t give up because banks don’t see what you see.
Women are entering business world in their numbers and are very resourceful. Nevertheless, they still need leaders and mentors to give them information about the facts. I have always believed that craftsmanship starts with conversation and my unique approach of connecting on a personal level with each individual customer is part of my winning formula. I thought I knew business because I successfully run various departments which ultimately achieved succeed and afforded me various spot light awards. I had skilled people in place, have an advisory board but I still failed until I got hold of a great Mentor who lifted my hand and my business changed drastically and am forever grateful, hence I encouraged people to be part of my mentorship programs.
The motivation for every person out there who aspire to be in business
Have these attributes of a lion – be tenacious, be courageous, be precise, be strategic and focus on the hunt. Success doesn’t come easy. You have to fight for the meal and fight harder for the best meal and be prepared to seat in the table before your enemies,
knowing for a fact that NO enemy, no table!
Develop a strong work ethic, it goes a long way during your startup days in your journey. Also have self-disciple and the ability to say no to things that are not part of your journey. Focus on the ultimate goals.
My personal mantra for success is try “Try and try again. Once you’ve picked something that resonate as your passion, it must be all-encompassing. You have to stick to it. You will be met with challenges, good and bad, but the thing is to stay to the course and never give up”
I am Carol Mhlauli – I don’t Play to Lose!
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