Self-made tycoon Mandla Sibeko knew from the tender age of 16 that he was going to be a businessman. He was born with an exceptional aptitude for entrepreneurship and his visionary outlook has been at the forefront of cultivating outstanding South African business ventures. His portfolio hosts an impressive number of prominent leadership positions such as; founder of Seed Capital Investments, chairman of Netflorist and most recently, co-director of the FNB Joburg Art Fair.
Mandla is adept at turning obstacles into opportunities, passionate about empowerment and champions new strategies to address current economic and social problems to yield better results. At the age of 28, he became owner of the second Pick ‘n Pay in Soweto and despite only having 8 weeks to get the retail store in operation, he successfully realised another life long dream. With lofty ambitions, audacious determination, and insurmountable faith, Mandla Sibeko achieves things inconceivable to most.
You’re the co-director of the FNB Joburg Art Fair. What does this role entail?
Providing leadership, an advisory role and strategic direction at the fair.
As an entrepreneur with vast career interests spanning from retail, to clothing, to media, to food and now art, how do you manage to transition between industries and how do you go about choosing the next venture?
I have simply always invested in my passions, I identify opportunities, then put everything behind it to make it a success. I have a strong entrepreneurial spirit. I am driven by new challenges in sectors I am involved in. I attended a leadership course for a week at Yale University, I was inspired to learn that the core of their education across all various faculties is centred on the arts. You need a creative mind as an entrepreneur and we need to encourage that in upcoming entrepreneurs in South Africa
Great artists and entrepreneurs are risk takers. What’s the greatest risk you’ve taken and what has it taught you?
I took the risk of seeking opportunities in the 2010 World Cup, I set up a company in branding and signage a few years before the World Cup not knowing if I would be awarded any projects and knocked on every door to introduce myself and my offering. I was very honoured to be awarded the entire signage and branding, look and feel of the FIFA World Cup. I feel great that I participated in one of the largest events in the world to have come to South Africa.
What is the key question every entrepreneur should be asking themselves and why?
What value will they add, entrepreneurship is about adding value and if you can’t add any value then what contribution are you really making?
Are there any artist’s lives or works that have been particularly inspirational to you and why?
There are many, the list is long; Hugh Masekela’s life is inspiring, then there is Nandipha Mntambo, Nelson Makamo, Senzo Shabangu, Lehlogonolo Mashaba, William Kentridge, Sam Nhlengethwa…
How does creativity play a part in your working life?
It is an important skill required, we need a different kind of thinking or approach to leadership and creativity is what is going to provide the new out of the box thinking to solve very complex problems our society faces today and in the world.
Which habits do you attribute to your success so far?
Patience and self belief.
In your opinion, what should South Africans be doing to aid economic growth and foster cultural capital?
We need to encourage a culture of start ups, we can’t expect to change or foster economic growth using the same old methods that have not yielded results. We need to rethink our methods and have more faith in each other.
Look out for Mandla sharing more insights in conversation with Between 10and5’s Uno de Waal in Glenfiddich The Art of Individuality video series.
Photography of Mandla by Darren Gwynn.