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Change the world

29/11/2023

From selling sweets at high school, to owning a driving school with a fleet of cars, Mandela University student Munei Budeli’s entrepreneurial flair is steering him on the road to success.

 

The 24-year-old student from Limpopo started an e-hailing business in his first year with one vehicle, when he was 18. Then, at the height of COVID-19 in 2021, he pivoted to start a driving school.

Today TT Driving School owns six cars and a truck, and not only teaches driving but also offers storage and transport solutions. It recently acquired an automatic passenger vehicle to accommodate learner drivers living with a disability.

“I signed up for the University’s entrepreneurial training programme and it started getting exciting in 2023 because they offered me office space, in a container,” says Munei, who studied civil engineering this year.

He immediately branded the structure and hired students to help with reception and driving lessons. “I want to give a shout out to Mam K, she really helped me,” he says, referring to the University’s Student Entrepreneurship Specialist Karen “Mam K” Snyman.

“And the students also because they are the ones who supported TT from the get-go.” With high levels of unemployment among young people – on 14 November Stats SA announced a figure of 43.4% for the third quarter of 2023 – entrepreneurship is key.

Nelson Mandela University therefore drives youth entrepreneurship and graduate employability through incubation, social innovation labs, training programmes, entrepreneurship centres and helping start-ups, such as TT.

Karen says Munei stood out even in his first year for his proactive attitude, “he’s very innovative”. TT Driving School is among 20 businesses that include tuckshops, gaming, tailoring services, pool tables, a hair salon and ice cream vendors operating on the Gqeberha and George campuses, employing more than 40 students.

“They have to show us a business plan and pay a lease, and we interview them to see if they qualify,” says Karen.

Munei plans to expand TT and also study further. “There is no time to rest, I like to be busy. There is no one who is going to tell you to wake up early and go to work, you need to push yourself if you want to make money.” Despite his energy, the road has not been totally smooth: “I have had to sacrifice to push the business forward, there have been sleepless nights.”

He explains that, “People don't understand that when you’re a student and also running a business, you need some time for studies. After all, they pay money to the business, not to the student.”

Munei started out as a National Student Financial Aid-funded biokinetics student in his first year in 2018, before switching to civil engineering in the Faculty of Engineering, the Built Environment and Technology.

Seeing the success of e-hailing services, he realised it might help subsidise his university fees. “The market wasn’t that flooded in 2018 and I asked my parents to buy a car that I will use to get myself some income. I had to do a lot of asking because they are not rich.”

He says his parents asked if this was going to distract him from his studies. “I said, no, I would hire a driver. I had already done my research, asking drivers how much they made.”

His parents, who live in Limpopo, encouraged him to get his licence – specifically, a Code 10, which qualifies him to drive a large truck – which he did in Grade 12. Munei figured out how much money he could earn by sub-contracting the car to an e-hailing driver, and rapidly started to earn money.

“The driver was paying me R2 500 each week, or R10 000 a month, and I made a profit of about R6 000, on a monthly basis. Even though I didn’t have a payslip I was building my credit score as I had a bank statement that looks good, with money going in and out.”

The following year he bought a second car and, by the time COVID-19 hit South Africa early in 2020, he owned three vehicles.

The pandemic, however, knocked his business. “I realised that a lot of students don’t know how to drive so I can use it as an opportunity.” The next step was to brush up on the K53 Driving Test and take a few lessons so that he could see how the instructors taught. “I didn’t tell them that I did have a licence, the main thing was to learn how they taught it!”

That marked the start of today’s driving school. Business grew and then, in November 2021, Munei saw an advertisement for a second-hand truck. Although the truck was in Johannesburg and he was 1 000km away in Gqeberha, he jumped into action. He knew that with his Code 10 licence and his own truck, he could offer driving lessons for this in-demand qualification.

On acquiring the truck, he saw that since students were getting ready to head home for their year-end holidays, demand for lessons was low. “It was December, so I advertised that I do removals and storage,” says Munei.

Munei credits his family background for his strong business sense. “I used to sell sweets at high school, not because of poverty but because I want to make extra cash. I would make R50 profit each day, R1 000 a month, just in my class selling sweets.” Today the young entrepreneur has big plans, including studying business administration next year.

“Having a driver’s licence on its own makes you more employable. I think it’s a minimum requirement for everyone aged 18 and it can help to reduce poverty. “I want to help students so I see this business going to all the universities in South Africa. I plan to look for a job, and then I will make one of the employees a manager. I am training them to take decisions that will not harm the business because it must run even if I am not there. I try my best to knock on doors and I will try several times, but if they don’t open, I knock on another door.”

Contact information
Primarashni Gower
Director: Communication & Marketing
Tel: 0415043057
Primarashni.Gower@mandela.ac.za