From losing both his parents by the age of six, to being homeless on the streets of Cape Town, Nkosinathi Mbatha has exemplified the fact that your beginnings don’t define who you are, or indicate the level of success you might attain in the future.
Born and bred in Umlazi, the biggest township in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Nkosinathi had to learn to take care of himself from a young age.
“My father passed away when my mother was five months pregnant. When I was six years old, my mom passed on. This forced me to stand on my own feet because all the breadwinners were gone.”
Nkosinathi’s grandmother and aunt took care of him and his siblings after his mother died. A few years later they also passed. The situation at home forced him to leave private school and attend a public high school. Adjusting to life without parents was hard.
“I remember taking the soap I used for bathing and using it as a roll-on and after that using that same soap as toothpaste. At that time, I just wanted to get school done so I could help my older siblings provide for the family.”
After finishing high school, Nkosinathi and his friend hitched a ride to Cape Town. They arrived with only R30 to their names. They were in a city where they didn’t know anyone and had to rely on strangers for help.
“When the guy dropped us off in Cape Town, he asked if we were going to be fine and we said yes. But we knew we were not going to be fine. We had to stay positive. We would ask the Somalians that sell in the streets to keep our luggage. While sleeping in the streets one of us would need to be awake to make sure that we were both were safe.”
Eventually, after much effort, Nkosinathi secured a job. He sold insurance. He worked seven days a week with no rest. What mattered to him during that time was getting a place to sleep and food in his stomach.
“With that job we were able to get a place to stay in Philippi. We slept on the floor. I was the one working because my friend still didn’t have a job. We ate nothing but bread and water. Luckily I got paid every week so I was able to buy what we needed during the week.”
The situation became too much for Nkosinathi’s friend who ended up going back to KZN. Life in Cape Town wasn’t sunshine and roses but Nkosinathi stayed, hoping that with his hustle, everything would work out.
After a year, Nkosinathi got an opportunity at Sanlam. His perseverance created opportunities that he had never imagined.
“My life started changing when I worked for Sanlam. I moved from Philippi to Athlone and I bought myself a car. It was the best moment of my life. But after a year at Sanlam I resigned because I wanted to start my own thing.”
After he left Sanlam, he moved to Delft at which point he stumbled upon dropshipping. With dropshipping, instead of a store stocking products, it buys products from a third party and ships them directly to the customer.
Starting the business was not easy for Nkosinathi but he was very determined from the get-go.
“The hardest part with starting a business is capital. For months, I had to sell snacks and sweets in the streets until I had enough money to start my business. I needed money for the website, the domain and marketing. I had to pay Facebook and Instagram for advertising, which was a lot of money. I had to pay the people who deliver to the customer. Sometimes it took too long, sometimes they would deliver the wrong orders.”
With time and money, the business grew, but the growth was gradual.
“I started that business and it really worked for me. I was making money and I still am now, but I realised in order for me to make a difference I need to know that it is not just about me.”
Inspiring young people is important to Nkosinathi, especially when it comes to self-awareness. Today he makes motivational videos and he always has advice for those trying to follow their dreams.
“Firstly, know who you are and stay true to who you are. Secondly, do what you love because it will bring you happiness. Thirdly be careful who you surround yourself with. Surround yourself with positive people. If you hang around five millionaires surely you will be the sixth millionaire.”
Tell us: What inspires you most about Nkosinathi’s story?