Favorite quote: “It’s not how many times you get knocked down that counts, it’s how many times you get back up.” -George A. Custer
What is your story (tell us about yourself)?
Ntwanano Ngobeni is an innovative thinker brought up in Giyani, a town in Limpopo. Uncomfortable with comfortability, obsessed with finding new and simplistic ways of doing things together with the passion of helping those around me thrive have always been cornerstones of my journey as well as undertones of my identity.
When did you start your first business and what inspired you to start?
My first business, Campus Connect, was started, and incorporated, together with my co-founders, in 2019. Inspired by the academic challenges we face as higher institution students, we decided to formulate a solution to address these challenges to aid students in their academic journey.
What is the Key Objective(s) and Vision of your business? (Has it changed overtime or is has it always been this?)
The vision is branching out to offer our services to all faculties and bodies of education not only in South Africa but in the whole continent of Africa with the primary objective of making student academic lives simpler through the offering of academic material and opportunities post the academic journey.
Just like any other business, the vision changes overtime through pivoting from one idea to the next to become something bigger and better. As Campus Connect, our vision has changed drastically since inception with the key objective remaining the same, to help students cope with academic pressures.
What challenges did you face in your journey? What’s the biggest obstacle you had to overcome (are still overcoming)?
Balancing the different aspects of life has to be the greatest challenge I am overcoming. Being an entrepreneur and a student as well as having to maintain a social life is definitely not an easy task and has to be the biggest obstacle I am yet to overcome.
The different challenges I have faced throughout my journey ranges from a lack of a support structure in the business field. In the beginning, the inability to acquire resources to sustain our business and obtaining representation to help us settle disputes in relation to non-performance of contract obligations by suppliers together with the acquisition of interested third parties to sponsor our initiative.
How did you manage to navigate your company through this period of the Covid-19 pandemic? (What business strategies/operational adjustments have you made over this period and how has it impacted your business model?)
Our business is online based. As such, the period of the Covid-19 pandemic only illuminated to our customers and clients the need for our business. This also aided us in improving our product offering as well as segmenting our different customers.
Our business strategies and operational adjustments made over the period include discontinuing certain product offerings such as animation and tutoring and these have refined our business model.
How do you approach networking and building partnerships in your industry?
Networking and building partnerships in our industry is mainly through entering competitions with those that are in the same industry as us and creating relationships from there as well as attending start-up huddles.
We are very open to forming partnerships with other entities in our industry for the sole purpose of executing goals within that partnership as well as growing not just our business but our network reach as well.
Do you have (or ever had) a mentor in your journey, and do you believe it helped (if yes, in what way)?
I have had multiple mentors in my journey, and they all helped me in realizing and making peace with reality and understanding how it works. They helped me quite a lot in the sense that they assisted me in setting bigger and higher targets in terms of my goals and implementing the perfect strategies to execute those goals.
What is your perspective on the South African entrepreneurial landscape before and after Covid-19 pandemic? (Would you say the “new normal” context drives more or less opportunities for entrepreneurs?) How can entrepreneurial policy development aid in expanding opportunities in this new context?
Before covid, the entrepreneurial landscape was quite relaxed as most individuals were comfortable with their way of life and the pandemic not only caused quite the disturbance but created a vast array of opportunities by forcing entrepreneurs to move out of their comfort zones to find new and innovative ways of doing things.
The pandemic paved quite the way for individuals to also become entrepreneurs as they realized the opportunities that it presented. In essence, our new normal created more opportunities for entrepreneurs.
In your opinion, what are the secrets to being a successful entrepreneur?
Perseverance is the one and only key to success in any field of business.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
The life of an entrepreneur is not an easy one but be proud of yourself for starting something or being a part of it. Never let failures hold you down, the journey is not a simple one, you will have so many doors closed in your face and a lot of negativities looming around but just remember always that it doesn’t matter how many times you go down, it only matters how many times you get back up. When someone rejects your proposal don’t look at it as your failure, look at it as one more person knowing who you are.
You are doing great, keep your head up and keep plugging away!