Black Like Me founder Herman Mashaba’s advice for entrepreneurs

Herman Mashaba

Herman Mashaba

Herman Mashaba is the founder of the well-known hair care brand, Black Like Me, and one of South Africa’s most celebrated entrepreneurs. Having started his hair care range in 1985 in South Africa during the restrictive Apartheid years, the brand has since become a household name in the country and exports its products to a number of other African markets.

Mashaba retired as CEO of Black Like Me in 2004, but remains a majority shareholder and a non-executive director of the company. He is also the executive chairperson of Lephatsi Investments, a broad-based black economic empowerment company with investments in financial services, mining, construction, transport and logistics.

Mashaba holds a number of other directorships, including chairperson of the Free Market Foundation, an independent policy organisation promoting economic freedom, the rule of law and free trade. His autobiography, Black Like You, outlines his entrepreneurial career which he says he hopes will show the youth that success can come from any situation, no matter the disadvantages.

During an interview with How we made it in Africa, Mashaba shared some of his advice to young, aspiring entrepreneurs on the continent.

1. Stabilise personal life to keep focused on career

In order to stay focused on their careers, entrepreneurs need to make sure that they have a stable personal life.

“In the business environment there are always challenges and I had to find ways in terms of my personal life to stabilise that so that I don’t have a lot of personal issues that are diverting my attention from running [my business] by having personal issues to worry about,” Mashaba says.

2. If you can, get educated and employed first

“My advice to young people is to firstly get their education,” continues Mashaba. “And once you get your formal education, to really get formal employment for a couple of years.”

He adds that although there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” for successful entrepreneurs, education and business experience before starting a venture will always be an advantage.

“To go straight into the entrepreneurial environment, I cannot say is not possible, but it will be much harder.”

3. Don’t expect handouts

Mashaba says aspiring entrepreneurs need to rely on their own initiatives and drive to be successful in business.

“Please don’t be misled by thinking that the politicians are going to be the ones to give you economic freedom. If you want economic freedom, you have to really strive for it yourself… And I think that people need to be conscious of the fact that they need to rely on their own initiatives, their own drive.”