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I have learnt from failure, says Siso

Siso (GS) made the revelation on the platform In Conversation with Trevor, which is hosted by Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN).

Entrepreneur Gugulethu Siso says she has learnt from failure as a businessperson and this is now driving her success.

Siso (GS) made the revelation on the platform In Conversation with Trevor, which is hosted by Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN).


Below are excerpts from the interview.


TN: Gugulethu Siso. Welcome to In Conversation With Trevor.

GS: Thank you so much for having me, and please feel free to call me Gugu.

TN: Gugu. I love your name by the way. Gugu is such a beautiful name.

GS: Yeah.

TN: You know, I always look forward to having conversations with young people like you who in my assessment are doing real work, creating companies providing services, creating jobs.

So for me having you here is a celebration of your generation and the people that are working hard in a very tough environment to do the things that you do. So well done.

GS: Thank you for that vote of confidence as well.

TN: I want us to do a pit stop, sort of helicopter stop on two or three projects that you you are involved in or have been involved in rather.

First of all, Thumeza Fintech. Talk to us, just briefly, what is Thumeza Fintech and what does Thumeza Fintech do? As briefly as possible. We will come back to this.

GS: So Thumeza is a fintech that uses an online loan management platform in order to provide credit to small scale transporters.

I would say that is about it in essence. We provide credit to small scale transporters only.

TN: Fantastic. Then the next project is, you were founder and CEO of Thumeza Logistics, which you pivoted to the fintech? What was the essence of Thumeza Logistics? As briefly as possible.

GS: Awesome. So in essence we are a logistics aggregator.

We would contract out to, let us say, entities such as Pick and Pay, and then aggregate the small-scale transporters, allowing them access to contracts that usually they would not have access to.

TN: Right. And then the next project that I want us to helicopter over is [in] 2014-2015 you were with the Global Business Labs (GBL)?

GS: Yeah.

TN: Which is a Swedish business accelerator? Just again, a couple of seconds on that? What was it all about?

GS: So that was an incubation as well as is an acceleration hub for startups.

 So GBL used to provide them with access to accounting services from institutions such as Deloitte, marketing services as well as legal services.

So, in essence giving startups that kind of formal um access to services that they usually would not be able to afford.

TN: And then the last project. You were co-founder and managing director of 99 Investments. 2015-2017. What was that all about?

GS: So that one was interesting. That one [is where] we were providing retail solutions... Sorry trolley management solutions to retailers.

So, in essence, we were managing trolleys through providing them with trolley guards, trolley servicing, literally changing any broken wires and all that other stuff as well as replacing any trolley to large retailers such as Woolworths, Pick and Pay etcetera throughout Namibia.

TN: Now that we have done that pit stop/helicopter view of your career, I think almost the past 10 years.

My question to you is I get a sense that your career is just taking off?

That the 10 years have been preparing you for something absolutely wonderful that is ahead of you? Is that the sense that you get?

GS: Well, yes. But I am an entrepreneur, so we tend to be delusional hey!

TN: Hahaha!

GS: I think our best line is delusion. You always think that you know this is the opportunity [and] I am just about to make it.

 But I think as you have rightly pointed out, that this is the time that I think we are just about to take off.

As you have rightly pointed out, I have been in the space for 10 years, so there are various lessons that have gone through from you know deep failure.

From trying to figure out how did I get it so wrong, or you know really dizzying successes where like oh my God I cannot believe I am in this room with this person, they really believe in me that they think that I can actually make this thing work.

But I think from where we are right now, from a company point of view, I believe we finally found product market fit.

So by this it means that we have found a product that we believe the market really wants right?

 As much as it is a very niche product, as you rightly pointed out that is in logistics, but also in fintech right. We are servicing a very niche sector right, but I think we have finally figured out how exactly we can provide credit to a very high-risk demographic without losing money, while still making sure that you are able to give returns to credit providers as well as um investors.

So yeah, very optimistic whilst landing to our delusion as I have said.

TN: You know I think we will get into the product and break it down as much as possible.

GS: Sure.

TN: But I want us to go to that space of being on the edge of delusional and optimistic?

GS: Yeah.

TN: And what I want, my push back is that, without that [delusion] you would not be able to get up out of your bed and go on to work.

Because it is that delusion, this thing [of] being optimistic that gets you up and say let me go out and do it? Am I right or am I overstepping there?

GS: No, I think you are spot on. Entrepreneurship is a hard, extremely hard world, right?

There needs to be a certain level of believing that there is something out there that you, rather you know as I am saying, that you only believe that you can achieve, right.

 That there is this grand vision in your head that you think if I can only just get to these particular steps, I will get to it right. Without that, to be honest, depression is something that is always you know lingering on the sides.

Because as I have said, the failures are really bad.

Can you imagine having staff members...I think at 99 Investments we had about 53 staff members.

 Can you imagine not having enough money month-end to pay those people?

How exactly will you get up in the morning and go to the office knowing that on the 30th you are not going to have enough money.

Being able to lower yourself, to ask your friends for a loan, to say oh you guys as much as it may seem like I am doing well right now I just need like a quick loan...

TN: Reality is different!

GS: A quick loan of about 6 000 I will give it back to in 15 days.

And then in that 15 days you are hustling and pushing to make sure that you pay it back. Because the second that you cannot honour those agreements with your friends, your support system literally disappears, because it [will said] Gugu does not pay back why should I help her out.

So that is the reality of it. I know some people have said that oh, but Gugu you always say oh you should not get into entrepreneurship, but then I am like it is pain and suffering.

 If you do not have to, and you truly have any other alternative opportunity I would rather you go for it, because the level of delusion that you need is quite huge in order for you to be able to go through the day-to-day crap that you have to go through as an entrepreneur to keep that dream alive.

Alive and functioning in a practical sense rather.

TN: But there has got to be, at least the the way I view it...

GS: Yeah.

TN: And listen to what you are saying delusional, depression is around the corner, the pressure of paying salaries. There must be a why?

GS: Yeah.

TN: Why are you doing it? Because without that why it is going to be difficult to to face all these things. Am I right?

GS: I will be honest Trevor. I have read some books right just trying to figure out is there some other higher purpose that is out there that you know I am trying to achieve, or am I just stubborn and I believe that I am the only one who can do something? These days I am slowly coming to the realisation that they are books, or you know these great...

TN: Management books. Inspirational books. Motivational.

GS: That tell you that you know this is your higher purpose you want to do this, but I have slowly come to accept the fact that I am stubborn.

 I truly believe that I have a vision for a particular solution that I think I am the only one that can fix it.

And also, to the stubbornness, I also believe that I can create a great deal of value.

 Not just for the company but for my investors and shareholders as well as stakeholders, like prospective employees.

That I believe that I can push, that if I was in any other particular situation and environment, I would not be able to do.

So, it is slowly coming to accept, as I was saying that little bit of delusion, as well as arrogance to say that truly this is why Imam doing it, there is no ulterior/large motive of I want to change the world, I want to save this person.

No, I want to create a crap load of value for my shareholders and stakeholders, and I think that I am the only one who can do it in this particular situation.

So I have said that goes against what a lot of management books tell you to do.

 That this is greater value but talk to yourself and be like why exactly we are doing this. You get the answer.

You might not like it, you will fight it but you accept it eventually and that gets you to the next level.

TN: But I hear you saying you are stubborn yeah in believing that you are the only one who can provide the solution? Shall we go there?

GS: Yeah.

TN: What is that solution?

GS: Cool. So, as you can tell like I get very animated about this particular conversation.

Starting off, I had just come back home to Zimbabwe in 2018.

I remember I had just left Namibia after the the debacle of 99 Investments.

I did not have children, oh rather I still do not have children.  Why am I saying that?

 I did not have a mortgage; I did not have a car note. In essence I was a young person, there was nothing tying me down to Namibia.

So I was feeling patriotic, and I decided to come back home to Zimbabwe. I remember, you know you are young, you come back home, [and] you become the family runner.

Something [is] needed go to the [Borrowdale] Village, tell Gugu to take you to the buses or something needs to happen Gugu is around, she is at home just give her the car keys she will make a plan right.

And I was available.

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