1984 was a special year for Daliwe Modimoeng (nee Zukani), who delightedly registered her name as a mother when she gave birth for the first time to a son named Sonwabo (Joyful).
What joyful Daliwe could not predict was that her son – whose arrival date on earth was on the 30th August of that memorable year – was born to serve people, the community, and would become future entrepreneur.
Fortunately for the newly-single mum, she did not wait for too long before Sonwabo – born and breed in the dusty, raggedy streets of Bekkersdal, a small location situated in the West Rand of Johannesburg, South Africa – revealed his true colours of what he was capable of.
His entrepreneurial skills were spotted at an early age of eight, in 1992, at Isiqalo Primary School, where school text books were not the only items on the young Sonwabo’s disposal; his other item was a packet full of sweets that was aimed to be sold out by the end of school hours each day. Furthermore, the business minded pupil was selling carpets after school to increase his daily business turnover.
Growing up not knowing his biological father was frustrating but, as young as he was, Sonwabo had to act like a man and provide for his family. And he did not fail. The business profit he saved was enough to open a tuck shop at home. With his demanding school schedule, Sonwabo trained his mother to run it on his behalf, before he matriculated at Kgothlang Secondery School in 2002 – and subsequently left for Pretoria to study Financial Information System at Tshwane University of Technology in 2003.
The void of missing the father figure in his life was understandably difficult; nevertheless, his dad’s absence’s worries were erased by the man he describes as the people’s person who loved and adored his kids; the man who played a huge role to shape his life; a humble man who married his mother; his name was Oupa Modimoeng – Sonwabo’s late stepdad.
Sonwabo’s tertiary school journey was not a fruitful one. With three other siblings at home that also needed his financial assistant, Sonwabo’s poor financial status took its tall and he simply couldn’t afford to further his education. Sadly, the circumstances forced him to drop-out of varsity.
This was not the end of Sonwabo’s future dreams, the drop-out student didn’t return home to sit and complain about his lack of finance to further his studies. He opened a liquor store – which he ran for seven months and the money he accumulated from the liquor place assisted him in acquiring a higher certificate in banking at University of South Africa (Unisa) in 2004.
After he completed the course, his certificate landed him a job at Nedbank, one of the top five banks in South Africa, where he worked as a financial advisor for five years. Admittedly, his heart and desired destiny was not working at a bank; Sonwabo’s passion has always been community building through social entrepreneurship.
It came as no surprise when the banking job’s appeal became less attractive to Sonwabo, he parted ways with 9-5 employment and moved to Cape Town in 2009. There, he opened a joint partnership’s car wash. But homesick pressure proved rather too much and he decided to end his contract and returned to the city of Gold a year later.
Having tasted how it feels like to run a car wash, the 30-year-old entrepreneur established another car wash as well as a fast food business in Simunye area, a township which is 48.7 km distance from Johannesburg in the West rand.
“I did all these with no experience as my businesses where not profit driven but social impact driven. Now I learn more about social entrepreneurship as this is my passion,” he said.
Indeed Bekkerdal-born community builder’s business is not money driven; he proved this by giving away the car wash and the fast food businesses to members of the local community.
In 2013, in a mission to do more for the community, the ambitious Sonwabo conducted a research aimed on making findings on community building and social entrepreneurship, of which through it he saw an opportunity and the need to start a non-profit organisation. Then Faded Black Innovation (FBI) – the non-profit organisation that deals with entrepreneurship and leadership programs in under resourced communities – was born.
FBI was formed to enable and partner with social entrepreneurship to fight social ills in communities through entrepreneurship. Its aim is to establish world class social entrepreneurs. In the process of developing Faded Black Innovation, Sonwabo discovered Spark, a non-profit organisation based in Australia that develops higher education and entrepreneurship to lead conflict affected societies into prosperity. It is an organisation that searches for individuals who are a making a difference in their communities.
Believing in making a difference to the community, Sonwabo applied through their website and his impressive application was shortlisted as one of the change makers worldwide. This was a life changing experience for Sonwabo, who further completed assessment test and finished as runner-up for Spark change makers in South Africa.
Inspired by Spark change makers’ experience, Sonwabo said: “I am motivated by people who come with solutions rather than sit and complain. There are so many platforms one can go about, in order to empower themselves: learnerships, internships, skill development programs, bursaries, study loans as well as business grants. These are all awaiting opportunities waiting to be taken advantage of.”
He continued: “I am not saying they won’t be any challenges, there is certainly no effort without error, rather than sitting on side-lines and hurling judgement and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen.”
Sonwabo has equipped and dedicated himself in learning about entrepreneurship and community empowerment. He now beholds extensive experience in entrepreneurial development. To this day he has played strategic role in a number of community-based job creation initiatives.
He recently put together a career exhibition, organised a cleaning initiative on Mandela Day and women’s seminar to educate young women on moral regeneration during women month.
Sonwabo’s next project is the ‘Dress Bekkersdal Walk’, to be held on the 6th of December 2014 – an initiative that cries out to people to donate clothes, and join in on the walk in delivering them to the less fortunate. This is a heartfelt action from the community by the community.