Rain is considered a blessing in most cultures. Quite befitting to grace our interview on one fine weathered late Wednesday morning. The location was Thetsane Factory yard where our guest operates a Factory outlet sales shop. As we would get to know more, this young man is the ultimate symbol of Ultrapreneurship, those people that go above and beyond the ordinary to make things happen for themselves, and usually rise out of nothing!
Who is Mr CEO and what does he do?
My name is Ts’epang Moiloa, on the streets I am Mr CEO due to what I do. I sell clothes and shoes that people don’t usually sell here. Whatever they see on the internet, I can get for them. For example if you see a sneaker on the internet, you just have to send it to me and I will deliver in a week or two.
I called my company Unique Fashions but had to change to suit what customers called me, Mr CEO. And now my whole operation is known as Mr CEO.
Where do you get the items and who is your target market?
I basically import from RSA, China and other countries that are leading producers of particular quality items.
I started off with targeting youth, but I realized that the need to look swaggy is not only a requirement in youth, we all need to look good. Most people are formal during the week but at weekends they need to flex a bit and dress drown. As a result I have adjusted my target to include even the elders. I also supply formal clothes. Even old mama’s at home, I sell them comforters, blankets. So at the moment I target everyone.
What ignited that entrepreneurial spark?
I got very hungry when I was growing up, I couldn’t even go to school. I finished my form 5 in 2009, I couldn’t pay my fees well, and actually I had a debt of school fees. I then became a taxi conductor, that guy who helps the driver with collecting fares. I did this until I got a passion for clothes. I like to look good and people always complement me about how I look, that’s when I realized that people like my taste of clothing. I ended up selling clothes.
But it didn’t come easy, I failed like two times, in 2013 I failed due to lack of finances. I raised funds, I went to SA (South Africa) to work and I came back in 2014 I tried it again and it failed. In 2015 I got a job at Studio88 and I worked there for almost 2 years. In the third year, I had a clear idea of what people like including their different tastes and their willingness to pay for them. So I learned a lot about clothes than just my passion from my work there. I resigned in June 2017, that is when I registered and started this company and I am now working for myself and getting recognized everywhere.
What are your goals about your business, where do you want to see yourself?
Well, Studio88 inspired me a lot. You know that company has about 500 stores in Southern Africa, like in the SADC countries, and they are owned by one person. Every shop that you see is owned by one person whether in Namibia, everywhere, they are not franchised. I want to be like that person. I haven’t met him, but he was my boss and he inspires me a lot. I want to grow that big and compete with the big brands. When people talk about Mr CEO I want them to be talking about a brand that big.
You dream big! (Laughs). Lets talk about your customers. What challenges have you come across when dealing with them?
I operate online mostly and this posses a great challenge. For example, someone may tell me they want a particular shoe, they send me a picture. I usually ask them to deposit say 200 Rands so that they show commitment, and when the shoe is here they will pay the rest of the amount in two months. Most people say “I have been scammed a lot, I can’t pay you that 200 Rands, bring the shoes, and I will pay full amount when they are here”. So when I end up bringing the shoes, they will tell me that “eish, something came up and am now broke, I don’t need the shoes anymore”. Now I have to keep the shoes and look for another customer, yet that someone ordered them. That’s what challenges me a lot. That [peer pressure that people get when they see me or someone post something on Facebook and they want it, then they realise they don’t need it. That ends up as my loss.
Owing to challenges like these, do you then have any fears in this business? How do you get over them?
I don’t have fears. I am not a fearing person. That is why I take huge risks. Starting from when I quit my job, I was earning like 5 thousand, but I took that risk to start my own thing. To have a successful business you have to minimize your risks and fears. If I always fear that the customers won’t buy the shoes when I bring them then will I go forward? Because most people have been scammed, I understand, but if that gets in my way and I fear everything then I will miss out on customers who will actually buy the goods when they come.
I like Will Smith, and he once said after fear there is something big. God places something big after fear. He made an example of him riding a parachute for the first time, he was very scared and fearful. He couldn’t jump out of the plane until he was pushed out. And about 30 second in, he realized that he was flying and that it was the nicest thing he had ever done. So he says greater things are behind our fears. So if ever I get afraid of something, I just face and conquer it and have faith.
So, lets talk more about the business, When you are ordering things from overseas, don’t you get scared that you will be scammed or you will lose your money in one way or another?
The internet has turned the world into a smaller village. And like I have said if you fear to do something, you will fail. The only challenge I had sometime was that I ordered shoes and they sent me fakes. Having paid a lot of money for them, I lost dearly. That is the only challenge I have faced so far. But I don’t fear getting scammed. People fear everything, even on Facebook, people fear giving their account to Facebook so that they can pay for boosting posts. But I love internet. I am Mr CEO because of the internet.
Having resigned from your previous job, what difference have you noted between being employed and being your own boss?
Being self-employed is a nice thing yet very challenging. When you are employed, you only do what you are told to do. But when you are self-employed you do more, like working overtime for your own good. When employed you know its 8 hours a day. As an Entrepreneur you work 24 hours a day. When your phone rings you know it is time to work. Also when working for someone, you will realize that you make a lot of money per day only to get peanuts at the end of the month. When I was young and in school, I used to tell my friends that I don’t like the idea of getting paid once a month, like in 365 days getting paid just 12 times. So people would always ask me so what are you going to do about it? SO I told them I want to get paid like 7 times or 30 times in a month. And that’s what is happening now. I can get Mpesa now, and it’s like that every day. That is the difference between being employed and being an entrepreneur.
So being your own boss makes you happy?
A very happy and am gaining weight! (laughs)
Out of all this, what is it that makes you most happy above everything?
I am proud of myself. I am always happy because of that. Like sometimes I can’t even believe myself. Last week I ordered stuff and out of that lot, only about 40% were orders, the rest were things that I wanted to introduce to the market and they all got sold out. I arrived on Sunday afternoon and by Tuesday morning they had all sold out. All sold out. So I can boldly say am proud of myself.
You have said you are proud to have built this business out of nothing, what do you think are the challenges that young people still face in order to do this?
They fear a lot. Like I said, I conquer my fears. Some people would get ideas to invest when the don’t have money, like when I get 2 thousand, I will buy these beauty products and sell, the moment they get that money, they start fearing that what if I fail, I will then lose the 2 thousand. As a result they can’t trust themselves due to that fear.
Your story is very inspiring, it resonates with so many stories among youths. The difference is, most youths will say I don’t have money and sit down to wait for someone or the government to come and give them money. What would you say these youths?
They need to hustle for themselves. I have been a conductor, I have worked at the factories getting 30 Rands a day, I have worked in SA getting 420 Rands a week, imagine that far from home. But I had a plan and knew that every money that I got I will save it. I once had a small grocery shop at home with the few groceries that I bought, it was about 3 hundred something. The little money that I had, I had to invest in myself. There are clubs, and people can spend 700 Rands a night there, but with the same money, you can buy 20 litres of paraffin and sell to people, in a week it can make you 1000 Rands. That 1000 can be re invested in the same business and in two weeks you can have 1500 or 2000 Rands
So it’s all about knowing where you are going?
Goals! Between you and yourself.
We have talked so much about your business, as a person, what motivates you?
You have to have people to look up to. If you hang out with people with small minds then you will also have a small mind. I look up to people like DJ Sbu. He is a millionaire but he wakes up at 5am to sell Mo Faya energy drink. So I always want to be like him and have that work ethic. That’s what keeps me waking up every day to do this.
I also read a lot. In my house I have plenty of books. I don’t read for entertainment, I cant go out and buy a superman book, but I would go and buy a Napoleon Hill book where I will learn. I don’t usually watch movies, I have a huge TV, 75cm or something like that but I hardly watch it, maybe just on Sundays, but I read a lot. Because I learn a lot too.
So what are you currently reading?
At the moment I am reading The Capitalist Nigger. I have just forgotten the author but it’s a story about the black person’s weaknesses and why we are failing, and tells us what we have to do to become a great entrepreneur.
Inspiring. Do you like music?
Yes I do.
What are you currently listening to?
Joyous Celebration, Kaylow, Black Coffee, DJ Shimza and AKA.
Where do you come from?
I went to Masianokeng High school from Form 1 to form 5 from 2005 to 2009. Spent my five years there. In the fifth year when I was doing my form 5, I learned using a loan from the school. They paid school fees for me and I owed the school money. That’s a very sad story that I always tell people. I got through the final year with the loan from the school and the next year after the results came out, I looked at the results sheet and could only see 3 subjects that I sat for, Maths, English and Sesotho, and I had to go to school to get the symbols. I went there and was reminded that I owed the school 3000 which was a very big amount. As a result they couldn’t give me symbols. I could not know what I got in physics, geography, until I paid the loan back. That is when I started hustling. That was in 2010. I tried until I realized that 3000 was too much an amount, because as a conductor I was earning 20 Rands a day. Then in 2012 it was election time and I went to the school to ask for my certificate or symbols so that I could apply to the IEC but I was told to go to my chief and that the chief must then promise the school that I will pay back upon receiving the money. The chief believed in me and wrote a letter that helped me. Imagine I only saw the grades I got after 4 years. Some of my friends had gone to tertiary but I was still hustling to know my results. I applied to IEC and didn’t get selected, but remember I promised the school through the chief that I would pay. This is around the time I opened a spaza, and it’s what helped me pay. I would pay 100, sometimes 400 until I finished.
Does the schedule of Mr CEO clash with that of you as a person? Does it affect your relationships?
It does, they all rightly complain. I am always on my phone talking to clients. Imagine trying to have healthy relationships with that. Friend complain and even my girlfriend. But I give priority to my customers because am at a stage where am building this business and my relationship with the customers will go a long way in doing that.
What platforms do you use to sell your products?
Facebook is very powerful, actually I am Mr CEO because of Facebook. I am now dealing with customers from RSA, Botswana. Most of the foreign customers I connected with through group networks just like Lesotho online. I posted on that group and got 1100 like and over 900 comments, people liked what I was selling. That’s how I got in.
Do you currently have any employees?
Not at the moment, but am currently using temporary employees to deliver products to customers because I realise that being on time please the customers.
Last words to the youth?
Conquer your fears, believe in yourself, don’t be afraid to fail. Fear will never take you anywhere.