Loyiso, Noble, Tshidiso, and Lesego are four friends who embarked on a journey of discovery, thinking out of the box and identifying a gap in the market which resulted in the establishment of their tech-based logistics company, Mapha Logistics. Having studied different degrees, the four young gentlemen came together in 2020 to create the company, and after testing the market and receiving positive responses from customers, they have not looked back since.
“Entrepreneurship, on the other hand, is very messy…”
Growing up in the city of Midrand (home to Johannesburg’s Grand Central Water Tower), Loyiso Vatsha (BSc Hons. In Actuarial Science, University of Pretoria), Noble T Nyoni (Bcom Internal Audit, CIMA, and SAP professional, University of Pretoria), Tshidiso Vatsha (Post Graduate Diploma Business Management, WITS business school) and Lesego Mokou (BSc Hons. Engineering, University of KwaZulu Natal) spent some time working in corporate prior to starting Mapha full-time in 2020.
When we asked for their perspective on starting a business, they talked about the unpredictable nature of entrepreneurship and how it drastically differs from the typical 9-5 employment: “Entrepreneurship, on the other hand, is very messy… you can have a list of tasks, goals, ambitions, etc. but most of the time nothing you plan ends up going accordingly and you just have to make the most of what you are given.” Moreover, unlike following a traditional career path where there is structure and a fixed salary you can look forward to at the end of every month, entrepreneurship does not offer the same security which can be scary if you have people who rely on you to provide for them.
“…they were hit with the hard reality that the technology space is a white-male dominated space…”
As much as South Africa is said to be “alive with possibilities” there are still some unfair barriers that exist for young black youth – especially in the technology space. Being young black men in the tech-entrepreneurial space, they were quickly hit with the hard reality that the technology space is a white-male-dominated space and that they would have to go the extra mile to get their service offering off the ground. The daily challenges one faces when starting a business are like no other, however, they always managed to use whatever resources they had, at their disposable to their advantage, and looked at unfavourable situations as an opportunity for growth.
“There were over 2000 downloads of the app and there was so much excitement around the idea of food-sharing…”
Mapha initially started as a food-sharing app in 2017 that gained a lot of buzz on social media when it launched. There were over 2000 downloads of the app and there was so much excitement around the idea of food-sharing but the issue – or rather gap – they were able to identify is that there was no one available to deliver the food that people would order on the app. The last-mile delivery capabilities were not there at the time. So the four gentlemen went back to the drawing board in efforts of improving their concept and in 2020 came back with the idea of executing the deliveries themselves with a special twist…
So how does Mapha Logistics work? It services 2 key types of customers, individual customers and small businesses. For individual customers, Mapha serves as a “personal shopper” that shops for you and delivers your goods to your door. For small businesses (specifically restaurants), Mapha acts as the delivery man for their small businesses’ organic customer base.
“Even though the pandemic had an adverse effect on people and their families, we saw an opportunity to create value for others while growing our company.”
The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic really accelerated the growth of their delivery business as people were forced to stay home. Courier companies like Mapha help people to adhere to the Covid-19 restrictions as customers have the luxury to stay at home and allow these service providers to deliver their goods to them. They expanded into grocery deliveries when the lockdown started which helped them sign on a multitude of various clients who had been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Another key highlight was expanding into townships like Tembisa and Alexandra in an effort to penetrate the township economy where there are no on-demand delivery services available, as existing platforms such as UberEats have been weary of servicing the township market. “Even though the pandemic had an adverse effect on people and their families, we saw an opportunity to create value for others while growing our company.”
“…there is not much external motivation that can get you to commit, it has to come from within.”
The four young gentlemen offer some words of encouragement to the youth who are thinking of starting their own business and state; “if you are thinking of leaving your job to become an entrepreneur, there is not much external motivation that can get you to commit, it has to come from within.” Starting a business is a lot of work and the most difficult part is not completing the day-to-day activities but keeping yourself motivated to never give up despite the many challenges that will come your way. In the start-up world, your failures are normally big failures, but your successes are just as big and they make everything worth it. Learn how to fail and when you do, you pick yourself up and keep moving.”
“You need to enjoy what you are doing otherwise you will never be good enough to see the project through.”
They go onto say that you must surround yourself with a great team because no one has ever built a successful company by themselves. Furthermore, follow the advice of those who have walked the road you are planning on walking so that you can avoid some of the mistakes they made on their journey and lastly, just have fun with it – “you need to enjoy what you are doing otherwise you will never be good enough to see the project through.”