The Good

From Bricklayer to Business Owner: The Sydwell Khoza Story

5 Business insights for SA entrepreneurs. Plus how to go from bricklayer to CEO
Trust in your ideas. Know there will be hurdles. And never miss an opportunity. This is the entrepreneurial advice from Sydwell Khoza, a former bricklayer who now employs 460 staff at his own company, Global Direct. We spoke to Sydwell about how he made it and how important entrepreneurs are to our economy.

SA needs more entrepreneurs
As if our economy wasn’t struggling enough when 2020 started, the Covid-19 pandemic made things worse. Experts say it could shrink by anything from 5% to 16.1%. That means fewer jobs, which means we need more people to create their own wealth and jobs. In short, we need entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs like Sydwell.

Meet the VP: Sydwell Khoza
Today, you know him as the Vice President (VP) of Global Direct, a hub for businesses in the insurance industry. Global Direct employs 460 people and serves 50 other businesses and markets around the country. And it’s thanks to Sydwell and Global Direct that these business owners earn between R30 000 to R100 000 per month.

Now that makes a difference!

From bricklayer to businessman
But Sydwell didn’t start off at the top. He had to earn his stripes. 20 years ago, Sydwell was a bricklayer who dreamt of achieving more. And he got that chance the day he walked into The Unlimited to begin training in selling insurance. Soon, Sydwell was empowered by The Unlimited to go out on his own and start his own business.

“I did not have the capital or the business experience,” Sydwell remembers. “But The Unlimited gave me business skills training, access to infrastructure and a proven set of products to take to market. My success is because of the help I got when I really needed it most.”

And, that’s exactly what The Unlimited aims to do – shift and transform people’s lives so they have a brighter, better future.

We caught up with Sydwell to ask him about the importance of entrepreneurs and getting help to start your own business in South Africa.


What’s your background and where did your entrepreneurial journey start?
I grew up in Piet Retief in Mpumalanga. When I was 16, my family moved to Orange Farm in Gauteng. Things were not always easy here. I worked with my father in construction and completed my matric in Soweto in 2001. But I knew I wanted to do more than be a bricklayer.

One day, I saw an ad for a vacancy in financial services telesales with The Unlimited. I joined the company’s Roodepoort branch and never looked back.

What is the role of entrepreneurs in South Africa’s economy?
Entrepreneurs have an important part to play in creating job opportunities. Especially when there’s a high rate of unemployment.

It’s the businesses that entrepreneurs build that can help steer people toward a better future. Entrepreneurship strengthens the economy and it’s good for everyone. But, sadly, many South Africans are not aware that they can own their own business.

People need to be taught that they can start their own company, and we need to show them HOW to become an entrepreneur, as it is foreign to so many of them.

What can big business and government do to help entrepreneurs?
There are so many people with an entrepreneurial spirit in South Africa. But our challenge is helping them to succeed and enabling informal businesses to grow into thriving formal companies.

Big businesses and government can enable emerging entrepreneurs by providing the platforms, capital, tools, mentorship, business seminars and advertising support to help them get going. It would also be great to see a bigger focus from corporate South Africa on developing informal enterprises into formal ones.

What is your advice to young people who want to start their own business? My advice is that you should never downplay the value of your ideas. The smallest ideas can have a huge, positive impact on many lives. They can be the seeds of great businesses.

Young people must understand that there will always be hurdles. But you shouldn’t give up, these are an opportunity to grow and learn. Face your challenges head on.

To be an entrepreneur, you need to be open to learning new things and trying things that haven't been done before. You should also have a great positive attitude and be committed to growing the business through its ups and downs. The reward is much greater than the struggle.

What were your challenges starting your business and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge I faced was to get people to believe how much this opportunity can change lives. I had to be the example and set the pace for the team. I had to teach myself how to deal with different people and their personalities – patience helped me master that skill. I needed to be humble and ready to learn; yet have a strong belief in what I was doing.

The Unlimited supports many businesses just like Sydwell’s Global Direct. In fact, it’s part of our value system. One of our values is ownership and we live that value by encouraging, assisting and giving entrepreneurs the opportunity to start and manage their own companies. That’s just how we do things. You start by working for us and, once you’ve learnt everything, we help you set up your own business.

Does it work? Ask Sydwell.

Together, we help entrepreneurs build a better future – and that’s true every time you purchase one of The Unlimited's products and benefits.

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