Starting a business from scratch

The Wits Business School (WBS) Centre for
Entrepreneurship ensures that their students do not learn in a theoretical vacuum.

Practical case studies are used to marry theory with practicality and to outline exactly how theory can be applied.

Case studies also display out-of-the-box thinking and inspire students to achieve excellence. This is the case study of Desmond Makondo, an individual who used minimal resources and defied the odds to achieve success.

Makondo is an inspiration to other WBS students because of his ability to stay focused and keep his eye on the ultimate goal.

In August 2002 Makondo walked out of the Johannesburg offices of digital products manufacturer, Hewlett Packard (HP), with a digital camera, two printers and an undertaking that he would pay the company R8 000 for the equipment within two months.

He had no idea how he was going to do this, but he knew there was no going back; he had no choice. He had to find a way to make this equipment make money.

But how? At the beginning of 2002 Makondo had joined digital products retail chain Incredible Connection as a salesperson. He became the branch’s top salesperson, but left six months later. He returned to work as a weekend warrior for HP in various stores such as Makro, Dion and other Incredible Connection branches.

About a month after leaving Incredible Connection, Makondo met Zii Sithole, then HP’s country manager, who had come to address the weekend warriors. ‘Other than this weekend work, I was unemployed and desperate to find full-time work,” said Makondo.

‘So I asked Zii [Sithole] if we could meet to discuss my options. He happily gave me his business card, but I’m sure he didn’t expect me to call as often as I did.”

Over the next month he pestered Sithole until he eventually secured an appointment. HP could not offer Makondo a full-time job, but Sithole was so impressed with Makondo that he decided to take a chance on the young man.

‘As part of our corporate social responsibility programme we would give potential entrepreneurs a digital camera and two photo printers with the understanding that they had to pay the company back for the equipment within two months,” said Makondo.

Makondo had no knowledge of photography and barely knew how to operate a camera so he left the building unsure of what he could do with the equipment, but his desperation meant he had to find a way and he was determined to live up to Sithole’s expectations of him.

What can Makondo do with a camera and two printers that will enable him to pay HP back in two months, and perhaps establish a business for himself in the future?

This is part one of Desmond’s story. The next part will be published in next quarter’s Entrepreneurship survey.

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