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Supporting Young Entrepreneurs

Published on: juni 27, 2017
We are committed to finding the hidden gems and developing the youth in the community. Here what Sibabale Joja had to say...
 
Q: Where did it all start?

A: It all started back home in the Eastern Cape. I grew up in a small town, called Mount Fletcher, and I was part of a big family. Growing up my parents strongly emphasised both education and Christianity. In retrospect, I believe that’s what has led me on my path thus far.

Q: When and how did you get into tech?

A: I got into tech when I came to Cape Town for high school. After high school, I studied Internet Technology (IT) for three years, and I was among the top achievers throughout.

Q: Tell us a bit about your business.

A: Well, after matriculating, I took take a gap year to figure out what was best for me and to reflect on my future. I spent that whole year immersed in books, researching and experimenting with as many careers as I could find.

I later decided to be an author. I knew I was creative and had a wild imagination. Truth be told, the fact that I wouldn’t have a boss interested me the most. At the time I didn’t realise this was entrepreneurship.

So I wrote my first book, and it was when I needed to publish that my business was born. Publishers wanted experienced authors and they were expensive. After researching about publishing on the internet I decided to self-publish. Then it struck me, why not publish others at a marginal rate, in comparison to mainstream publishers.

Q: What was the journey of starting your own business like?

A:  The best time of my life. I was doing something I loved and making inroads faster than I thought, and my co-founder who strictly wanted to remain a silent partner was more than helpful.

Q: Entrepreneurs often speak about challenges did you have any?

A: Of course, I had plenty. Where do I begin? Firstly, to make money you need money and we didn’t have much. Government agencies were unkind and backward to a certain extent. The red tape simply serves to block SMME’s from developing. Our resources were close to none, in terms of equipment, availability of the internet and office space. For the first year the business operated from libraries and free Wi-Fi hotspots. I would hitchhike on trains, and roam all of Cape Town looking for these facilities. In this process I was robbed and almost died many times. 

The pressure from my family and friends to get a “real job”, and make a living for my family and I, was a continuous blow I had to deal with. But the worst was when I was involved in a car accident, in the middle of my hustle in the CBD, and came close to dying. 

Q: But you persevered.

A: I had no choice. I knew success was on the mountaintop. Even though some doors were slammed in my face – because I was young, black and inexperienced – I knew I would make it and indeed I did. I managed to secure international clients and mentors and some of them remain close friends even today.

Q: You talk about publishing, but how did you come to be involved in the software business?

A: As I was building the brand, my co-founder was in college at that time, I came across various frameworks for graphic design and web development. We then decided to incorporate these frameworks into our business, and formed a media marketing department, which meant more growth for us.

But it was really by chance. I was in Philippi Village and heard about a small business incubation that was about to happen. I saw it as the next step to growing our business and leaped at the opportunity and registered. Through hard work and dedication, throughout the course of the incubation, I won first place. This unlocked major opportunities. One of which was a chance to go study software development (coding) at CodeX, so as to leverage my qualifications. It was a risk, but I trusted the people and the reasoning behind that idea. These were people who would later play a major role in my life. Mr Amor Strauss, Mr Hans Van Albeik and Mr Toine Dam advised me about both business and personal growth, and we attribute a great deal of our success to them, and of course hard work.

Q: Tell us a bit about CodeX and what is next for you?

A: Currently, I am working my way towards being a Full Stack Software Developer, which encompasses both front-end development (the look and feel of software) and the back-end development (internal systems driving functionality). So CodeX is a work readiness institution that practically teaches coding skills most needed in industry. It also incorporates industry principles such as agile (inspiring a continuous learning attitude), kanab (for effective and efficient build), and scrum values (for open and conducive collaboration). We are currently focused on JavaScript, HTML, CSS and various other complementary frameworks and tools. 

Thanks to Philippi Village and its stakeholders I am now not only working in the industry of my dreams, but I am working for one of the sharpest minds in business and tech Mr Bheki Kunene. It had been a dream of mine to meet him, but surely it is a blessing to be part of his team. 

The future for me cannot be more exciting, especially with the capability of software to solve our day-to-day problems. I look forward to seeing what AI, AR and VR will do for mankind.

Q: What is your advice to others wishing to follow in your footsteps?

A: 1. Do what you love
     2. Work hard
     3. Pray hard
 

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