Be Firm on What You Believe In- Theo Baloyi

By Phiwa Sikhondze

South African award-winning entrepreneur and founder of Bathu, Theo Baloyi says holding firmly on what he believes in has made him the great entrepreneur he is today.

Baloyi disclosed this when making his keynote address at the Umliba Youth Entrepreneurship Conference hosted by the Youth Enterprise Revolving Fund (YERF) on Friday at the George Hotel in Manzini as part of the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) celebrations.

The highly successful South African entrepreneur notes that he created space for himself when no one else believed in his dream. He says he firmly held onto his belief that his Bathu dream would come true despite all the challenges that he encountered along his start-up journey.

The entrepreneur noted that he had to mute a lot of naysayers along the way.

“Because when you say it, people think you’re crazy. When you say it, people say, that’s not going to happen. What do you mean, they ask? There’s never been such a thing. We never say it because we’re afraid to be. We never say it because we’re afraid to be rejected or to be criticized. But, let me tell you something that is the voice. And in so saying, rejection is nothing but a different lens. Rejection is not saying that your idea, your dream, your business model, and what you’re trying to build is not achievable. That’s not what rejection is. Rejection is just the other guy in the room saying no to you because they do not see what you see.” he said.

Baloyi shared the story of his entrepreneurship journey with the youth entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs of Eswatini, also advising them on how they can be successful local entrepreneurs. He motivated the youth to make use of startup opportunities and commit to seeing their entrepreneurship dreams come true.  He also encouraged the youth to start dreaming big and work towards covering the global market.

The conference brought together industry leaders, successful young entrepreneurs, experts, investors, innovators, and funders to tackle strategic areas that impact the growth and development of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

It focused on four strategic pillars: creating an enabling entrepreneurship ecosystem and business landscape, improving access to finance for small businesses, sustainable agriculture solutions and market access, and innovation and technology in business.

On another note, the board chairperson of YERF, Sifiso Dhlamini, said that the country had a youthful population and unemployment remained high. He quoted one speaker from the recent Sibaya who said “bayasi-cleanela lemakhaya nje loku silapha,” which means that the youth have become domestic workers.

“However, today I challenge the youth to go against the grain, be resilient amidst the prevailing state of affairs to turn their ideas into realities. Knock on all the doors, work together, take advantage of every little opportunity that avails to make your business dreams come true,” Dhlamini said.

He disclosed that the YERF had supported over 1,000 youth businesses since its inception, and had disbursed over E27 million as seed capital to foster the growth and development of youth businesses.

He requested those who had received assistance to honour their obligations so that more young people could be afforded the same opportunities. Dhlamini emphasized the need to maintain a good credit record and prudent financial management, which are catalysts for obtaining further financing for the growth and development of MSMEs.

He also acknowledged the contribution of partners, sponsors, moderators, presenters, and volunteers who made the conference possible.

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