30 June 2023

Written by Milpark Communications

It was during her first job at ABSA bank that Nonjabulo Sikhakhane, 33, began to develop her idea for a business. Working in customer service and as a sales consultant, all day long she’d hear stories of people struggling with crippling debt or trying unsuccessfully to save money.  “I would get into trouble with the branch manager because I spent so much time talking to each person!” laughs Nonjabulo. She realised that financial literacy is a serious issue – that had the potential to make or break your life.

“I started playing around with the idea of what children should be taught in school about making good financial choices to prevent these kinds of problems later in life,” she says. When Nonjabulo launched Mboma Financial Services in 2021, the company’s flagship programme was designed around financial literacy for high school learners. She piloted the programme with a group of Grade 10 pupils at a private school in Johannesburg and they reacted so positively that the school asked her to present the programme to Grade 11 learners as well.

“When you ask these high school kids what they want to be one day, they say influencers or DJs,” says Nonjabulo. “Then I explain to them about seasonal income and the risks involved and they realise they need to have a back-up plan.”

Even though her business idea seemed sound in principle, she knew she could benefit from more business acumen. Although she had an undergraduate degree in accounting from Rhodes University, she decided to do a postgraduate degree in accounting (PGDIP) from Milpark Education, following it up with a master’s in business administration (MBA) from Milpark Business School.

“You often hear people saying that some business greats, like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, dropped out of university and that you don’t need a business degree to succeed in business. But there are so very few of those naturally gifted people – most of us have to work hard and study hard to succeed,” says Nonjabulo, expressing remarkable humility and insight. She knows that even the best business on paper can fail. According to one estimate published earlier in 2023, 70-80% of small businesses in South Africa fail within the first five years.

It has been almost two years since Nonjabulo launched her business. She employs three people on a contract basis and keeps on signing new schools, slowly growing her enterprise. She credits Milpark Business School for giving her the courage to give up her job to start her own business. “The lecturers poked holes in my theories, they made me think about every aspect of my business idea,” she recalls. “That kind of feedback was sometimes hard to hear, but so valuable because it forced me to do more research.”

Nonjabulo says her continued education gave her the self-assurance she needed to put her ideas into the world and stand behind them. “As a black woman, I always have to prove myself,” she says. “My MBA qualification gives me not only the confidence to speak, but the people I speak to have the confidence to know that I know what I’m talking about.”