Mtileni always knew he was destined for entrepreneurship. He started out by selling sweets to his classmates while he was in high school. In 2011, he qualified as a registered dietician and opened his own practice, Kulani Dietetic Practice, in Polokwane.
After noticing the increasing levels of unemployment and poverty in his community, he was inspired to do more. At the age of 27, he launched Polokwane Cleaning Ladies.
“I was exposed to many young women who were struggling to find work and unable to make ends meet,” he explains. “My concern for them motivated me to do something that could help improve their situation.”
Trials and triumphs
The cleaning industry poses some challenges because customer satisfaction is key, says Mtileni. “It was difficult to find reliable customers, while others complained that the service was too expensive. I tackled this problem by ensuring that we always delivered quality service.”
Earlier this year, Polokwane Cleaning Ladies won its first big corporate client on a 12-month contract. The company currently employs 15 permanent staff and four part-time workers. Since joining the company, several of the employees have returned to school with the aim of obtaining their matric certificate.
“Business is about developing a community and changing lives. I always tell my staff that charity begins at home, so we regularly donate our time to clean orphanages and local schools. The goal is to be a reliable employer and to better the lives of as many people in my community as possible,” says Mtileni.
He continues to practice as a dietician and starts work at 4am everyday. “I start each day by ensuring that everything is in order at the cleaning company before I rush to my dietician office to consult with patients, then I return to the cleaning office at 2pm. I work long days, but when I receive positive feedback from my employees about how their job has changed their lives, it makes it all worth it.”
Moving forward, Mtileni’s five-year plan is to offer free learnership programmes and employ at least 500 young men and women from poverty-stricken areas. He also aims to up-skill his staff and empower them to eventually start their own businesses.
Mtileni’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs:
- Hard work and patience are crucial. Success doesn’t happen overnight, so give yourself time to get there.
- Don’t focus solely on making money. Your business idea must be able to improve the lives of people in your community.