John Solomons, 52 years old, is currently living his dream life as he describes it. He is married, has two kids and lives a comfortable life. But life wasn’t always so picture perfect while growing up.

John grew up in gang stricken and impoverished Lavender Hill, on the Cape Flats, with his parents and nine siblings. They lived in a two-bedroom council flat where the nine siblings and himself all shared one room. John’s dad was the only bread-winner and his mom suffered from a mental illness so it was difficult to make ends meet. Life for John was tough growing up to say the least.

“I struggled for most of my life because we couldn’t make it.”

John saw a way out of poverty when he realised that his then permanent job was not enough for him to live on, so he made the bold decision to attend university and when he was accepted, he quit his permanent job at Clover. He got accepted for Sales and Marketing at Pentech, which is now CPUT.

John says the reason he went into sales was because he, “Was always a sales person. Sold ice-cream and sweets as a child. Sold chicken as I got older. Saw an opportunity through selling.”

Whilst studying John had a part-time job and then moved out of his house to focus on his new career path because of all the family conflict that was happening in his home. His home environment was not conducive for studying.

“I had to move out of the house because of violence, constant fighting, family conflict, substance abuse… When looking at other people, I realised that it (studying) was the only way out of poverty. Met life-long friends, met inspiring people. Experienced new things.”

In order to fund his studies, he used his earnings from work for the first year of varsity, and for his last two years he was fortunate enough to receive a bursary.

John explains that it, “Wasn’t easy, but I pushed through.”

John graduated with a diploma in 1993, and got married the following year.

Along the way John expresses that he realised that there was more to life than what was happening in his home and community.

“I realised there was more to life than fighting and the stabbing.”

John was the only one of his nine siblings to receive a tertiary education and he is proud to have made it so far.
After graduating from Pentech, John found it difficult to find a job due to the recession. He found himself back at Clover and went onto to work for Clover for 24 years, and slowly moved up in the ranks from being a merchandiser to his last position which was an account manager.

John was retrenched in 2016 and took over the crockery business, which includes the sale of plates, mugs, bowls, etc., from his wife and it has been growing slowly but surely.

“I’m enjoying it,” he explains.

Johns words of advice come from a place of knowing what is was like to struggle growing up, knowing what it was like to work incredibly hard to get a better life.

He says, “Whatever you want in this life, always hard work. Never give up, no matter the circumstances. Change the direction of your life with hard work.”


If you enjoyed this, then read about a woman who graduated in her 40s here.

Tell us: How do you deal with challenges and obstacles in your life?