Hailing from one of the roughest townships in South Africa, Alexandra, Precious Dhlamini always had the hunger to strive in the working world, but because of the stagnant direction her career path was taking working the regular 9-5 job, she decided to take a big step into the entrepreneurial world and start her own business. Like many entrepreneurs, she yearned for financial freedom and the full ownership that came with being an entrepreneur. Though it was not easy, she embraced all the challenges as they came and today services some of the biggest companies.
“I studied hard at school; I wanted to be like all the kids and sound like them too. I spent a lot of time at the library reading, both novels and the dictionary.”
Born in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Precious made the big move to Johannesburg with her mom to Alexandra where they resided until she was 7 years old. They moved to Sunninghill after her mom got a job as a domestic worker where she attended Wendywood Primary and the high school. “Living in Sunninghill opened opportunities for me, it made me the person I am today,” said Dhlamini. “I studied hard at school; I wanted to be like all the kids and sound like them too. I spent a lot of time at the library reading, both novels and the dictionary”. Reflecting on her childhood in Alex, she recalls how tough it was and the many occasions when they would go to bed with nothing, but her mom did everything she could to provide for her and her younger brother.
“I have always been ambitious because of my background and where I come from; I did not want to go back to the life of Alex, the life of struggle.”
Precious matriculated in 2009 and took a gap year with the purpose of finding a job to further her studies. It was tough as she only managed to secure 2 jobs that whole year but she did not give up. Her first ever job was at a restaurant where she worked as a waitress and performer, singing for the customers. Her big breakthrough was when she landed a job at a call centre as a sales agent. She managed to work her way to a customer care agent where she worked on many campaigns due to her impeccable interpersonal and marketing skills. Unfortunately, from there on there were no prospects of further upward mobility and therefore found herself boxed. As a result, she left out of frustration to seek more growth opportunities. “I have always been ambitious because of my background and where I come from; I did not want to go back to the life of Alex, the life of struggle.”
“I withdrew my retrenchment fund and regretted my decision because they did not pay it out that month. It felt like the longest month of my life.”
Her entry into the corporate world was through working at a business centre as a receptionist in Bryanston. She then moved to Rivonia where she became a billing administrator, then an operations assistant, and moved again to Fourways to the bigger business centre. Looking at the natural progression of her career this time around, she had high hopes, but just like at the call centre, she only got as far as holding an operations assistant position despite her hard work. “My biggest issue when I was working at the business centres was the fixed idea that if you are good at something people think that is what you are meant to do forever.”
Once again, Precious changed course and looked for employment elsewhere when the company she was working with sold to another organisation. “I withdrew my retrenchment fund and regretted my decision because they did not pay it out that month. It felt like the longest month of my life.” She states that 2017 was one of the most challenging years of her life but her ambition did not allow her to give up. She landed a job as a receptionist at 22 on Sloane and within 8 months, she held the office manager position. Within a year of her employment, she became a campus manager and she loved it because she was doing something that she enjoyed – sold office space, billing administration, liaising with clients, marketing, etc.
“I want my financial freedom; I want to be my own boss.”
Precious loved and appreciated her time at 22 on Sloane but she came to the hard realisation that the 9-5 life was no longer working for her. “I want my freedom; I want to be my own boss.” You could hear the frustration and passion in her voice. Essentially, she was tired of working for people and felt as though the energy and work you put into someone else’s dream does not yield the desired results as opposed to working towards your own goals. Taking advice from one of the clients, Precious took the big leap of faith and started her own business.
“I am new in the entrepreneurial space, I have no idea what I am doing, I still need clients, I need to push the business and make it work.”
Because of her ability to interact with clients, Precious decided to start Phumelela Professional Services. Time was not on her side as she registered her business right before COVID-19 hit South Africa. Operating under lockdown was her biggest challenge – “I am new in the entrepreneurial space, I have no idea what I am doing, I still need clients, I need to push the business and make it work.” Her first client was Nokwazi Mzobe, impact-focused entrepreneur and founder of Matoyana, who she is very thankful for as Nokwazi was loyal, stood by her through thick and thin, and guided her in the right direction. From there onwards, everything worked in her favour as she attracted more clients and today, she services some big companies.
“I have so much faith in my business because I have faith in myself”
Precious describes entrepreneurship as challenging and a constant state of hustling, especially if you do not have multiple streams of income and solely rely on the money you make from your business. As a single mother, a daughter and a sister, slacking is not an option as she needs to provide for her family. The starting of Phumelela gave Precious the drive and confidence that she always saw in herself. Initially starting with 2 clients to servicing some of the most reputable organisations of South Africa, Precious believes in her business and its prosperity – “I have so much faith in my business because I have faith in myself.”
“It’s tough, but it is one of the greatest teachers in life”
Precious offered some word of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs and states that entrepreneurship is not easy. There will be sleepless nights, there will be months with no work, and there will be times you feel like giving up but you need to endure it, and that is all dependent on your character and how bad you want to make your dreams a reality – “if you’re patient and ready to stick by your goals then you can do it.” Starting a business, she says, is not for the faint-hearted, it’s for people who can stay strong during difficult times and treat everything as a learning lesson. She realised, when you are an entrepreneur there is no rest, you need to seize every and any opportunity you can find, and make sure you fulfil your obligations whether that be providing for your family all building the life of your dreams.
Entrepreneurship gives you strength and teaches you a lot – “It’s tough, but it is one of the greatest teachers in life.”
Pati Kwakwa is a Bachelor of Arts undergraduate and Business Management postgraduate who currently serves as the Research and Content Development Assistant Freelancer at Matoyana.