Palesa MoloiParkUpp

Favorite quote: “Have no final form.” – Unknown

What is your story (tell us about you)?

I am a qualified CA, who loves art, tech and property. 

In high school, I was asked what I wanted to become, and I replied, “I want to be a technologist”. Everyone burst out laughing because at the time, the term wasn’t so popular. Embarrassed, I tucked away all my books about science and tech, together with my keyboard and mouse, and  was then channeled into accounting. I do really value the CA qualification because it’s taught me a lot about business, especially having had the privilege to get a sneak peek into different companies from various industries – numbers do tell a story. For me accounting is retrospective, while science and tech are more forward-thinking and give you a canvas on which to solve some of the world’s biggest problems.  Failure redirected me back to my passion. I’ve learnt over the years to embrace learning through experimentation and failing.

When did you start your business and what inspired you to start?

I started ParkUpp in 2016 while serving my articles. Trainees didn’t have parking so we had to park on the street, in the CBD, Braamfontein. I was uncomfortable with my car parking on the street so I made a plan for myself to park in a nearby parking lot by forming a relationship with a security guard (I occasionally bought him food to let me park) and so I thought to myself that there are many others who are experiencing the same problem as me and so the journey began. The initially idea however was not the connect people to parking lots – I initially wanted to improve parking lots by showing parking occupancy especially for shopping centres (because I believed that they were somehow the lowest hanging fruit). Eventually the company pivoted to what it is now when I was accepted into an accelerator in Cape Town.

What is the Key Objective(s) and Vision of your business? (Has it changed overtime, or has it always been this, since you first started?)

Our vision is to provide access to the world’s physical spaces in one click. Our mission Our company mission is to organise the world’s physical spaces and make it universally accessible and flexible. Yes, this has changed over time because it all initially all about parking but now we are venturing into flexible spaces such as workspaces, venues and other types of spaces.

What challenges did you face? What’s the biggest obstacle you had to overcome (are still overcoming)?

We have a couple of challenges such as lack of funding, small team and not knowing the right people. We overcame the funding obstacles by being creative with our team resources and building a minimum viable product – a website instead of an app. 

How did you manage to navigate your company through this period of Covid-19 pandemic? What business strategies/operational adjustments have you made over this period and how has it impacted your business model?

Covid-19 was definitely a shock to our business – April 2020 we had to freeze people’s parking accounts and that meant no income for us. However, again through creativity we organised and hosted a drive-in cinema which was a big brand activation for us. We had over 1000 people booked over a period of 4 weeks. It was such a success. As lockdown restrictions began being lifted off we started seeing an increase in our revenues again and more and more people booking. The change in business strategy is that we are now adding more to our product offering by including flexible workspaces etc. It’s a no-brainer seeing that the two product offerings are very complimentary to one another.

How do you approach networking and building partnerships in your industry?

Ask for advice – everyone loves to talk and share their experiences. For me, wherever I go I try learn as much as I can from others. That’s how I’ve been able to build relationships and network.

Do you have (or ever had) a mentor in your journey, and do you believe it helped (if yes, in what way)?

Yes, I’ve had a few mentors along the way and it had helped a great deal with synthesising our business especially the challenges we’ve faced, mentorship helped us solve these in a much more efficient and effective way i.e when you start a company you tend to want to focus on a lot of things instead of focusing on one, I learnt “the one thing” from our advisor Marc Fletcher where we ditched all the other stuff and focused on building a product until it was done then focused on customer acquisition.

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 in your industry?)

Entrepreneurship is hard everywhere but I think it it harder in a country with a high unemployment rate and adding on the pandemic with so many people who lost their businesses, it makes things a lot more intense however I think all our problems are opportunities to create solutions and this is where our passion to solve problems comes in as entrepreneurs. We play a very big role in our society even if its hard, its worth the cause.

What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
Remind yourself daily to be relentless in the pursuit of your goals and brand vision as a fellow African leading the 5th industrial revolution. Being a disruptor means challenges must and will come…use these challenges to build resilience, to adapt and to fail forward for the dreams of our people rests on our shoulders to fulfill.

In your opinion, what are the secrets to successful entrepreneurship?

I don’t think there are any secrets – it also depends what you define success as: for some, it’s starting something and other it’s becoming a billionaire. There are a lot of contributing factors to reaching one’s goals: exposure to the right things, knowing people, luck, handwork etc – for me, I have no direct obsession with success in any form, I believe in doing things for the right reasons. If success is one of them, this is fine too but be clear on what you define as success.

What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?

All our ideas are usually initially wrong, so your journey as an entrepreneur is about becoming less wrong about what you’re doing and finding out how you can be right over time (according to ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck’ by Mark Manson)