BACKSTORY: Philani Sangweni
We question Philani Sangweni, managing partner: Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs Africa
What’s your one top tip for doing a deal?
Align the concerns of the entrepreneurs with us as investors. Look to create trust, so that our interest in helping entrepreneurs to grow becomes clear to them and they know we’re on their side.
What was your first job?
I was an analyst at Accenture.
How much was your first pay cheque, and how did you spend it?
It was about R13,500 a month. The first thing I did was to buy a gift for my mom and my grandfather, who both helped raise me.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that people don’t know?
I wanted to be a music producer. Doing that is how I raised cash for my university deposit. I used to write songs and make beats.
What was the one thing you wish somebody had told you when you were starting out?
Coming from a township background, the constant message I received was that some things were just not going to be for me. I wish someone had just helped me to erase that self-doubt. There were many more things that I could have achieved if I hadn’t had that sense of insecurity.
What does SA need to do to get itself back on its feet post-lockdown?
As a country, we need to stop talking about entrepreneurship and actually start putting our money where our mouth is. I think a lot more effort can be made by the powers that be, including large pension funds and the development finance institutions of the government, to pump funding into early-stage entrepreneurship. Because that’s where the next wave of employment is going to originate from.
What is the one investment you wish you had made, or made earlier?
I wish I’d bought a bunch of Discovery shares when I started working, in 2002.
What would you go back and tell your younger self that would impress him?
I would say you can achieve success without sacrificing your values. At some point, I thought — especially when I went into business — that you had to sacrifice who you are in order to be financially successful. And I got burnt. The lesson for me was to go back, find my centre and who I am, and then start a business I enjoy and truly believe in.
If you were President Cyril Ramaphosa, what would you change, or do, tomorrow?
I would make bold decisions to (help) prosecute some very corrupt individuals, to send a strong message that SA is serious about halting corruption. Then I would offer big business strong incentives to hire many young people.
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