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She has been crowned as an innovator and future business leader by Forbes. Bill Gates mentioned her as one of the millennials making a tremendous difference in their communities. And the list of global business awards that she has achieved is endless- and keeps on accumulating. She has launched two successful businesses that have received international accolades. The icing on the cake is how Thato Kgatlhanye has attained all of this success of this at only 24.
We caught up with this young business genius to find out more about the Super Power behind her massive success.
If you were to liken yourself to a any superhero who would it be and why?
It would be Lightning McQueen from the Disney movie, Cars. Simply because from the outside he looks like an ordinary car. But he can also transform, revealing his supernatural powers that allow him to be more than just a car. I liken myself to him because I think I’m a two in one special.
Additionally because he’s a racing car I can draw metaphors to his life and mine. I view my life as a race, which should never remain stagnant. I’m always competing with myself. Aiming to thrive within my own lane.
You’re an educated young woman who chose the route of entrepreneurship where 90% of new startups statistically fail. Tell us what were the factors that convinced you that the rewards of such a decision would far outweigh the risks?
From an early age I made a pact with myself. I understood what I would be trading my freedom for if I decided to go the corporate route. Essentially we are all born free. We don’t have any kind of responsibilities or have anything that requires us to be there at 8am and leave at 4pm. We are all born with this vast amount of freedom and we have to make a decision as to what we are willing to trade that freedom for.
I understood that I definitely didn’t want to postpone my joy. Additionally, I didn’t want to live a life where I was going to kind of follow this path that says you graduate, you get work experience, then you do the things that bring your heart joy. I was clear that I was trading my freedom for the joy that I would get out of firstly helping other people see the value of purpose and secondly maximizing their potential. That is something I apply to every employee within my businesses. I traded my freedom for pursuing a career that is not only purpose driven but would also help other people fulfill their purposes too.
I then committed to being the best in the world at whatever I do. And by “the best’ I mean the greatest version of myself, and by “the world” I mean in my world, uniquely defined by who I am as an individual.
By making that commitment, I understood that I had to learn from other people who are the best in their world. Which is the motive behind why I got an internship with marketing genius Seth Godin. Having to work under someone who had reached a level of mastery in his thinking at the young age of 20 made me understand how execution is the most important part of any idea. It is not so much about having good ideas. It does not matter how good your idea is, if you cannot execute at a certain level then it will not gain traction.
Your business Repurpose Schoolbags in the manufacturing industry which is very capital intensive. How did you raise the capital to make it a success?
Capital is not a problem. What is a problem is that not a lot of entrepreneurs understand what they need the money for. In my case for instance, the easy answer is that you need the money for machinery and labor. What they don’t tell you is that you can buy all of these things, pay your employees and the rent etc, and still have your product not sell or not have your clients know that you even exist. That is not a business. In that case, you were able to buy all of these things that make you look like a business. But there’s a difference in looking a certain way and actually being a certain way.
What marketing taught me is that if people don’t know what it is that you are putting on the table that’s of value, it means that you are not a business.
If nobody is willing to pay you more money than it takes for you to produce your product from a conceptual level, don’t expect anyone to pay you when you’ve materialized it.
Instead of going to look for capital to buy all the things that would make me look like a business, I went out and tried to sell the product before we even created it.
So essentially what we did was we created product prototypes, took incredible pictures of them, created amazing product overviews. Once we created that curiosity and excitement, we would give the condition to our clients that they can have the product if they paid us a certain fee.
That is the winning strategy: sell it before it exists.
This ensured that by the time our machines came, they had already starting paying themselves off.
We also sought out capital that would give us more than just money, but also free mass publicity, pre-sales and business mentors. That is why we resorted to entering business competitions that will offer us all of these aspects. From just a picture of our product and an amazing product overview, we were able to raise over $40,000.00.
You’ve recently started your second business, Seven Twelve, which is based on personal development. What role in your view does having power over your money play in that?
I recently got introduced to the concept of emotional equations. They basically help with understanding your emotional intelligence from a theoretical point of view. Then once you’ve learned the theory you can train yourself to become fluent in it on a day to day basis. One of these equations relates to abundance. The whole idea of personal development is to get to the point where you grow. However, your growth results in you having some sort of physical manifestation to show that your growth has resulted in something. It is a question of whether your inner development is in alignment to your outer world. If one is on track and on purpose, then they are able to go out and earn whatever amount of money that they think they are worth.
Money is something that a lot of people think is hard to get. Nothing could be further from the truth. The difference between earning a certain amount in an hour and someone else earning that same amount in a month is the abundance equation. The abundance equation involves understanding what you need to be responsible for.Can you be responsible for, and master a few things that will allow you to have unlimited choices?
When people master nothing, they have limited choices.
But when you are abundant, you master a few things, get to be the best at those things, and you then get to earn at a higher level.
The journey of personal development is about understanding what is of value to you. What feels good and what makes you feel successful when you do it. Then honing in on those key skills, because that is how you are going to make your livelihood. And your livelihood will give you the lifestyle that you want.
You can never have unlimited choices if you do not master and are responsible for a few things.
As a millennial personal development expert, how would you encourage other millennials to use social media as a tool for growth and positive impact?
A paintbrush in the right hands will create a masterpiece. Social media can either help you paint your own masterpiece, or it will make you a spectator to those who are doing so. Depending whose hands it is in it will produce different results. I think what a lot of people haven’t done is consciously go on social media with the understanding of why they login in the first place. It will only be useful from a personal development perspective if you ask yourself who are you following, and what are you getting from following them and their content.
I believe personal development has seasons. If you are in a learning season where you are growing, follow people that will add value to that season. If you are in a relaxation season, likewise follow people that will add value to that. Don’t feel obliged to follow the same set of people all the time. Learn to curate and direct what you are exposed to on social media. Get your mobile data’s worth.
Lastly best advice with regards to money that you’ve received, and best advice you can give to anyone reading this today?
The best advice is how you get it matters. The journey it takes you to make that money is important. Many people do not learn, enjoy nor develop from the process of making money. They only get to enjoy themselves on a yearly vacation and that is not real wealth in my opinion.
Real wealth is enjoying what you do, and the money being just a manifestation of that.