BACKSTORY: Aspire Art’s Kholisa Thomas
The FM speaks to client advisory: Aspire Art Kholisa Thomas
What’s your one top tip for doing a deal?
Understand the problem and work on finding the solution.
What was your first job?
My majors at Wits were politics and international relations and my first job was with the British high commission in Pretoria as a political analyst, working with then ambassador Ann Grant.
How much was your first pay cheque, and how did you spend it?
I can’t remember how much it was, but my role at the high commission required smart business dress every day and I remember buying a proper woman’s suit from Jenni Button in Sandton, a fashion designer I admired greatly but could never afford.
What is the one thing you wish somebody had told you when you were starting out?
When you first start out, it’s not about knowing all the answers but knowing that you will be able to find them. One of the things my mentor, Ann Grant, used to tell me is that what really matters is your willingness to “know what you don’t know”.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that people don’t know?
I come from a distinguished family; many people don’t know that because one of the things my parents taught me was humility. Both my parents have master’s degrees from Harvard, they both served in government and reached the highest levels in their respective fields. They also give back to their communities, whether through mentorship, sitting on boards of NGOs or giving of their expertise and advice.
What’s the worst investment mistake you’ve made?
Not buying art from the moment I started earning a salary. I always advise my clients to buy the best art that their money can buy.
What’s the best investment you’ve ever made? And how much of it was due to luck?
Of course the best investment I ever made has to be buying art! It’s the only investment, done wisely, that will grow over time and give you pleasure every day of your life while you own. By buying art you also give back to our broader creative economy, ensuring artists, curators, gallerists, restorers and framers can continue doing what they love and making a living.
What is the hardest life lesson you’ve learnt?
Don’t waste your money on things that won’t matter in five years — always invest in what’s important and has value.
What is something you would go back and tell your younger self that would impress them?
Have patience for your big goals while working every day on achieving the small goals. I’ve always been a perfectionist and many things got undone because they weren’t “perfect”; now I focus on the bigger picture.
What would you fix in SA?
Corruption, the economy, education and the protection of women’s rights.
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