“Not everyone can be an entrepreneur, but once you realise and understand that you are an entrepreneur, you must never ever give up, many people can start, but not many people can finish… but the only way you can finish what you started is to never give up.”
Indeed Jeff always knew he was born to be an entrepreneur, not just a regular business initiator, but one whose primary pursuit is to affect the lives of others and impact the society.
He was born in Alexander Township, a densely populated and poor region in Johannesburg, South Africa; founded in 1912 and a home to more than 400,000 people.
The community lacked several amenities and has been tagged “dark city” because of its poor lightening; especially on the streets, even though it counts Nelson Mandela among its former residents.
Enough reason for any young person in the community to lament and blame the government for its ineptitude or even run off in search of a ‘greener pasture.’
But that was in no way the story of this South African entrepreneur. Growing up in Alexander, Jeff had an unwavering faith in his home town, even though he was well aware of the challenges and lack that haunted his people each day. He never stopped believing in the things that were and those that could be.
He hoped earnestly for an opportunity to show people a different picture; he longed for a chance to dispel the negative stereotyes about his home, Alexandra Township, especially in the minds of foreigners.
Jeffrey Mulaudzi found his chance in 2010 and was quick to discern and embrace it. As South Africa geared up to host the FIFA World Cup, it was also a good season for most businesses as the country prepared to receive an influx of football fans and tourists.
Realising what huge opportunity that was, the young entrepreneur took a loan from his mother and got seven bicycles to launch Mulaudzi Alexandra Tours. To him, there was no better way to show people around his friendly community than on the good old bicycle.
“There was quite a lot of tourism going through within Johannesburg, I really thought that would work because I saw an opportunity,” he says “I really, really knew it was going to work.”
Indeed it is working beautifully. Although business progressed slowly at first, Jeff found joy in living his passion. He started by producing tour brochures and distributing them in hotels, but he soon found out that most people discarded them without a second thought. “One day I went to one hotel and dropped my brochures off, and the concierge thanked me and then dropped them in the bin as I went out. Luckily a guest waiting by the concierge saw him doing that and asked for one which was rescued from the bin. He then called me for a tour for the next day,” he tells How we made it in Africa.
And with the money he realized from his first tour, he was able to pay a few hotels to display his brochures. That way, business boomed and as a shrewd business man, he invested in more bicycles to accommodate more tourists.
Jeff’s tours are known to be unique; differing in form and experience. And each tour costs R200 (US$18.75) for two and a half hours, or R400 ($37.50) for four hours; a fabulous package which includes bikes, helmets, water, and lunch. And sometimes, umqombothi, a traditional beer.
During the cycling, Mulaudzi creates an opportunity for the tourists- foreigners and South Africans who reside outside Johannesburg, to interact with the people of Alexandra, to see and enjoy the local life style and ultimately, understand the people better. They have the time to chat, culture up close and even tell their stories.
“We make it so that there is communication. So that Alexandra residents can communicate with people from different countries, and visitors can see that they don’t have to be afraid of Alexandra, the place that we come from. We are also people, and I want to show it’s not a place where you will come and be killed or something like that,” he explaines. “I want people to better understand and know what kind of people live in the township as well.”
Jeff has also expanded his business, to offer bicycle lessons and repairs.
For his ingenuity, the resilient South African youth has been recognized within and outside his country. In 2013, he received the Young Entrepreneur of the Year award from the South African Turkish Business Awards. He has also been recently named as one of the 12 finalists for the Anzisha Prize, a pan-African competition that recognises entrepreneurs between the ages of 15 and 22 who are engineering change through business in their local communities.
Despite his towering feats, the change maker has plans of diversifying his business even more, to include a unique bicycle rental business.
His plan is to first grow the model in his country and with time, extend it across the border.
“Bicycles are the best form of transport to see a country and interact with people. In a car you get stuck in traffic, and if you are walking you can’t cover as much distance. Bicycles make sense… and I think, when you think about traffic, we are going in that direction more and more as a continent.” He explains to How we made it in Africa.
And to the aspiring entrepreneur, the young revolutionary says:
“Entrepreneurship is not easy because you always start with losing. I have never read a book that was written by an entrepreneur that says it is easy and you just need to start and you will get money. Never. It’s all about investing and reinvesting… and learning from your mistakes.”
Follow your dreams, believe in yourself and don’t ever give up.- Rachel Corrie.