The mind of a mentor: Get to know Nolitha Tshabalala as she elaborates on her business and trucking experiences.

The Mentorship Challenge, with Marc Wainer connects people across geographical, cultural and industrial boundaries. And this is all thanks to the time, talent and wisdom of the mentors featured on the show and online. We wanted to unpack their insights more fully than the television show allows. Because ultimately, it’s all about the meetings, moments, milestones – and mistakes! – that led them to the leaders they are today.

Nolitha Nkosi-Tshabalala is one such leader. She overcame immense early childhood trauma to become a titan in the trucking space. With the tagline ‘excellence in motion’, Nolitha TS – her 100% self-funded company – is the first black, female-owned company to transport waste in both KZN and Gauteng.

Nolitha Nkosi-Tshabalala

This supernova was recognised as the National Rising Star Champion at the 2018 Top-20 SA Small Business Awards gala. Nolitha’s core passion is in empowering women to enter male-dominated industries. And she’s fearless. She’s been driving buses since the age of 19, so there’s no challenge too big for her to handle.

We sat her down and asked her to answer a few choice questions.

What does the term ‘mentorship’ mean to you?

It’s when someone takes you by the hand and shows you step by step how to do certain tasks – and holds you accountable.

What, in your view, is required to forge a successful mentoring relationship?

Commitment is key, and both parties must actively participate in making a success of the relationship. Both should connect, meet and follow up. Both must lead the relationship.

Tell us about the earliest memories of mentorship in your life – with specific reference to the people who had the greatest influence on your development.

My father was my first mentor. He taught me everything about buses, how to drive and how to fix them. He believed in me and pushed me to pursue my dreams and aspirations.

Looking back on your life, what changes would you make and what would you do differently? What would you say to your younger self?

I believe that everything we experience as individuals is for the growth of our soul, in order to attain a higher level of consciousness. I would not change any experience I’ve gone through, but I would tell my younger self that “it will pass. You are stronger than you realise and have the ability to rise above your challenges. You are great, you are loved, and you are awesome – believe in yourself!”

If you could pick anyone in the world to mentor you today, who would that ‘fantasy’ mentor be?

There are two great people I admire: Oprah Winfrey and Patrice Motsepe.

What legacy would you like to leave in your lifetime?

A legacy of courage – for women to have the courage to make inroads into any male-dominated industry and thrive. Equality in business – for both men and women to be treated fairly, and for women to be able to work together, fix each other’s ‘crowns’ and lift each other up in business.

What does it take to develop an entrepreneurial, innovative mindset?

Passion. If you have passion in the industry you want to play in, you will be able to see opportunities in that field. And great sensory acuity – being able to see when things don’t go according to plan, and being flexible enough to make the necessary changes and do what works.

What changes would you like to see in our education system (pre-primary through to post-matric) to make it more supportive of disruptive, entrepreneurial thinking?

I want to see the whole curriculum change to accommodate the jobs of the future. Our children should be taught and prepared for future jobs – and they must be able to access technology from Grade 1. We need a high-quality educational system that promotes innovation and encourages students to freely express themselves in their God-given talents.

What role can corporates, SMEs and NGOs play in rebuilding South Africa, and how can they make a meaningful impact in the communities that need this most?

Every business should have a mentorship programme, and it should be co-funded by government. Every employee should come into the workplace with the ability to learn, and they should immediately be partnered with a mentor. I believe anyone who is passionate should be able to run their own business one day.

What advice would you give a passionate young person who wants to start their own business in today’s economic climate?

Do your research about the business you want to create, talk to someone who is already in that space, and get inside the business itself. Have a proper plan on how you will do it and what steps you will follow. Once started, give it your all – nothing less! Your focus should be on one project only, until you make it successful.

We’re hoping these mentoring dialogues will deliver some meaningful food for thought for you to digest, and that they’ll inspire both mentors and mentees to join the challenge.

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