#Transformers: Entrepreneur transforms rejection into resilience
by Lebogang Tshetlo & Charles Mathews. Life is uncertain and unpredictable, which is why a critical part of transformation is figuring out how to deal with hardship and struggle. This skill is called resilience, and it may be learned, as entrepreneur Fezile Dhlamini (@AudioTheBrand) of Green Scooter discovered after his dreams were stalled time and again.
“Transformers Transform 2020” is a special series produced by MarkLives and HumanInsight and sponsored by the Association for Communication and Advertising (ACA), running Jun–Sep 2020. Our objective is to explore and map new paths for brands and marketers to transform, adapt and build resilience while the world adapts to covid-19 and its resultant social, political and economic toll. This is an independently managed, journalism-driven research project.
Rejection is a bitter pill to swallow. Psychologically, we’re wired in a way that getting refused repeatedly elicits actual physical pain. At times, the disappointment may be so severe that it may leave us feeling disconnected and alienated.
Although rejection hurt the Soweto-born Dhlamini, he never let it beat him. He channelled the pain into pure determination and used it as fuel to propel him forward. For three years after leaving university, where he studied strategic communications, Dhlamini tried to get a position at Uber, the global disruptor that transformed a sector. But the entrepreneur-in-waiting was repeatedly refused.
“I applied for backend work from digital strategy to operations at all of the Uber branches in South Africa and London”, Dhlamini told Business Report, adding that, at the tender age of six, he taught himself everything he knows about computers. He tried other mobility companies such as Taxify, but all doors were closed to him. So, the young dreamer decided to go back to university and further his studies. However, he would soon be rebuffed yet again; he applied to UJ to do his honours, and was promptly declined.
Yet this didn’t deter Dhlamini, who has a passionate ‘can do’ attitude and the kind of resilience that is a true hallmark of #Transformers. “If you want something very bad you have to get up, get it and fight for it if you have to. It’s not about how many times you fall down, it’s about how many times you get up,” he said on Cape Talk.
Psychological insight indicates that humans can learn to better adapt to life-changing events and that building resilience can drive huge personal growth. “There are many aspects of your life you can control, modify and grow with,” the American Psychological Association counsels, adding, “That’s the role of resilience. Becoming more resilient not only helps you get through difficult circumstances, it also empowers you to grow and even improve your life along the way.”
For Dhlamini, bouncing back meant finding a creative way to overcome the blocks holding him back. Given that Uber and all the other ride-sharing startups refused to open their doors to him, he decided to start his own mobility company and, thanks to his studies, he knew a lot about branding and differentiation.
“I think marketing is a great way to strategically communicate your brand to the public, build relationships and create memories that live forever,” he says, adding, “Although South Africa just seems to have most agencies doing the same thing over and over, we have kind of gotten used to the bland way of marketing. Marketing needs to be transformed and needs to see more diversity top-to-bottom.”
For Dhlamini, this transformation has taken the form of building his own brand. In 2016, the entrepreneur founded Green Scooter — Africa’s first all-electric e-hailing platform that marries nimble innovation with the need to be green and energy clean. Targeted at daily commuters in need of a last-mile ride, as well as people who want the convenience of an affordable electric vehicle for short-to-medium distance trips. Green Scooter nimbly extends SA’s mobility infrastructure to where it’s most needed and offers a ride that is safe, reliable, convenient, economical and eco-friendly.
When asked what advice he has for other entrepreneurs who stand in front of closed doors, Dhlamini says that, to be a transformer, entrepreneurs need to learn to build new careers and industries on the fly. “We have a long way to go and we are the first generation of Millennials [who] are learning as we go. In IsiZulu, we say ‘Sizobona phambili’ which means ‘Build the plane while you are flying it’. Either you soften the landing, glide or crash and burn. We have all been pushed off the cliff and we must now figure out how to fly.
“When I got into the working world after graduating, I realised that there was no room to look beyond the seams. To make marketing more relevant, we need to look at taking more risk with ideas.”
Dhlamini advises that, when it comes to transformation, focus is everything: “At this moment in time, everyone has to rewire what they bring to the table and this is more digital than ever. The game will, and should be, caring less about making noise but actually creating revenue and value.”
When asked what motivates him, he says, “Remembering why I started. Not being afraid to start again. This is what keeps motivating me.” Asked to define his venture, he describes it as: “Green Scooter, the youth-owned EV Automotive and Internet Company breaking barriers in Africa, which is at the forefront of renewable energy and innovation. Our very own Tesla Motors.”
Business Insider reports that the novel coronavirus pandemic has “highlighted a serious gap in the food deliveries market, with mostly township areas excluded completely from more mainstream services”, given that “none of the mainstream apps deliver fast food in many of South Africa’s biggest townships.” However, it’s people like Dhlamini and a new slew of mobility entrepreneurs who’re changing this.
KasiMenu, which launched two years ago, has teamed up with restaurants and already has more than 2 000 daily customers daily in Soweto, Pretoria, Soshanguve, as well as Mabopane and Ga-Rankuwa. Business Insider also quotes Lerato Lufuno Monguni, COO of White Fox, a township food-delivery app that operates in the Vaal as well as Soweto, as saying that townships are “a market that hasn’t been tapped into”. Monguni told Business Insider: “You get places in Soweto which are known for inyama ye nhloko (sheep/cow’s head) or known for the best kota and you get someone (going) all the way from Dobsonville to Chiawelo for kota.” In true entrepreneurial fashion, Monguni is helping to close the gap between retailers and locals, and now delivers for Pick n Pay as well. “There is a lot of money in the township; it’s just a matter of finding ways to develop the township economy,” he says, hitting the nail directly on the head.
Ultimately, entrepreneurs will find ways to transform themselves and township economies, just like Dhlamini and SA’s emerging mobility entrepreneurs are doing.
- #Transformers Transform 2020 • Sponsored by the ACA
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Having worked in advertising, content and publishing, Lebogang Tshetlo (IG: @lebzskywalker) is a poet, artist, professional photographer and transmedia storyteller who now uses photography for art and work alike, and researches transformation and innovation. MarkLives thanks Tshetlo for the use of his photography for this transformation series. As founder and CEO of HumanInsight, Charlie Mathews (@CharlesLeeZA) leads research on #HopePunk, #Transformation #DigitalEcosystems, and works with the world’s most-transformative technology brands.