June is celebrated as Youth Month and it is young entrepreneurs like Sibabalwe Lunika (26) that restore hope for the future. Not only does he construct people’s homes but he’s building young futures as well.
“[In 2016 a close friend and I]… started an architectural company, LM Design Studio Pty Ltd. We had been together since the first year in varsity. With no capital for rent or to buy needed basic office equipment, we had to sacrifice and make ways to run the company day by day, with only our two laptops we had been using from varsity.
“That was a huge challenge but our motivation and spirit kept us going. We tried our best to advertise, walking around town and going door to door circulating flyers that showed what the company offers.”
Unlike the buildings they design, life doesn’t always pan out the way they envision it.
“There were bad months where our landlords would threaten to chase us out because we couldn’t pay rent. I sadly lost my business partner/friend in a tragic car accident in 2017. I was out of breath and felt like a part of me had been taken away. I continued with the company because it was our dream.” He adds that it was his family that helped him deal with the trauma.
Sibabalwe has been drawing closer to architecture his entire life.
“I knew from my primary which path I would take, though I didn’t even know the word ‘architecture’. I had been excelling in subjects like Arts and Culture and Technological Sciences. These need creativity and an understanding of social behavior; they require imagination in solving people’s needs and wants by improving their living spaces. As I went on to high school, and it was time to choose a career, architecture was the career my interests fitted into.”
Sibabalwe went on to graduate from the Durban University of Technology (DUT) in 2015 with distinctions.
“I then had to apply for a job, which was a very stressful task without enough money for internet cafes and printing CVs. I was fortunate to receive a phone call to start work immediately at an architectural company in Kokstad, KZN. The company was well established with big projects, and I had to work overtime to beat deadlines and produce thorough work. I learned a lot. The knowledge and experience gave me the confidence that I could run my own architectural firm.” And that was the beginning of LM Studio Design.
“Running a business is not easy; it is not just what we see on social media where some people only show happy times and materialistic achievements. There is a lot of stress from unpaid invoices, paying accounts and people and having nothing left for yourself. You also have to deal difficult staff and clients at times.
“There are good and bad times. Challenges are meant to be there – they make you stronger to face the next one. I pray every morning as I enter the office and it lifts up my spirit to face each day.”
In case you are wondering when he got so grounded, Sibabalwe credits that to his stable foundation.
“I was born in the village of Caguba in Port St Johns, Eastern Cape, and raised in Mthatha. I grew up with five siblings in a strict family that taught manners and basic childhood values; ‘Hlonipha uyihlo nonyoko ukuze imihla yakho yolulwe emhlabeni.’ (Honour your father and mother, that your days may be prolonged on earth). This belief has taken me this far in life.”
Sibabalwe’s mother may be departed, but her teachings remain engraved on the wall.
“In the next five years, I see the company expanding and having more than one branch, with an office in my home town of Mthatha. I am also a proud charity contributor, so I also want to see myself as one of the recognised South Africans who are working in changing people’s lives. My late mother taught me charity. She used to feed street kids and her good heart touched many. One day I want to own an NPO, looking after homeless people.”
Sibabalwe also shares his views on youth unemployment.
“The one solution that is neglected by the government are the people like me who are fighting against all odds to keep our doors open – the small business owners of this country. They are the people who can grow the economy, who create work and employ our community members, making a difference in people’s lives.
“We need support from our country so that we can start our own businesses and successfully run them. Young graduates with qualifications are staying home unemployed, and instead of looking at practicing what they went to university for, our education system is teaching people to be dependent and be employed. This needs to change.”
Sibabalwe concludes by giving a word of advice to the youth.
“Use your talent. He never gave you a skill to misuse. It starts by identifying a need in society. What do people need? What can you do to make a change and make a living out of it? Do not wait for funding, capital, or offices, God will provide as you go – just start. Even if your business is small, the fact that you have started something and created work for yourself is extraordinary.
“You’re not going to master the rest of your life in one day. Master the day! Then just keep doing that every day,” he sums up.
Tell us: What part inspired you the most about Sibabalwe’s life journey?