Is it a boom? Is it a bang? It is actually a THUD, that is energizing entrepreneurship on the African continent. The Hook Up Dinner (THUD) is a fresh and exciting movement with a vision to grow a culture of entrepreneurship on the African continent and globally. With origins and a base in South Africa, THUD was founded by Mr Selebogo Molefe. It invites business starters to hook up or get together and ‘connect, engage and contribute to each other’s success’. This platform also facilitates valuable connections between start-up enterprises and big corporates.
Entrepreneurs are special and all too often misunderstood animals. The path of an entrepreneur is seldom an easy one. In 2012, Lebo (short for Selebogo) did not only identify an essential need for fellow ‘start up’ players in the economy. He, along with his partners took on the task of meeting this need – to work together rather than in isolation towards a desired economic results. Thus this entrepreneurial networking initiative is growing and enjoying a healthy following and some creditable support. Examples of backers are SAB Kickstart and the Standard Bank Incubator.
The Inspired Africa grabbed the opportunity to have a conversation with Lebo – who is also more popularly known as Dr Lifesgud.
TIA: Let’s talk about you. If you bumped into a long lost friend, who wanted to know what you are doing with your life now, what would you say?
Lebo: Wow. I am making sure that by the time I die I leave a legacy – personally and professionally. It’s important to me that I do something significant, also for other people.
TIA: How are you doing this?
Lebo: For example, in church I make sure that I teach entrepreneurship. At home I do my best to be a great father, taking the baton from my own father. In my career, my approach is to do business not just for money but to help fellow Africans to advance economically.
TIA: Why do you call yourself Dr Lifesgud?
Lebo: There was a point when I worked as a hairstylist! And I had a huge female client base. I used to listen to them a lot, talk and even offer answers to questions they had about men. They appreciated this. One day a client thanked me for ‘making life so good’! That’s how I got the name Dr Lifesgud.
TIA: What does a typical day for Dr Lifesgud look like?
Lebo: I drop off my daughters at school. Then I take about an hour to read when I get to the office. I am a big reader. I read books about business, leadership and African history. Then, comes a meeting with the team. And we get into the business of the day. After work I pick up my girls. I catch up with my wife, who is a great story teller. And after they go to sleep I like to do a bit more work.
TIA: Was there a time when life was not good?
Lebo: Generally, life is hard, especially when you are black. It’s just a matter of your outlook. My outlook is of ‘the glass being half full instead of half empty’. I am always looking for an opportunity. There’s always a silver lining.
TIA: Any fears?
Lebo: I don’t want to die poor. I want my babies to be trust fund babies. This is what fuels me to come up with new concepts, and create wealth – security for my family.
TIA: One of your ‘pet products’ is bean bags. You manufacture and sell bean bags. Why bean bags?
Lebo: Because no one is thinking about them! I find they are great conversation starters. They fit in with my character and personality – I like bringing people together. They create a comfortable environment. They are also a good product. We do business to business sales. We get guys who buy them to resell, as far as in places like Malawi and Namibia.
TIA: A thud is a sound you can’t ignore. What is this ‘thud’ that you want people to sit up and notice? What is the message?
Lebo: It’s thud, as in a heartbeat. THUD is a process of evolution. Collaboration is the new innovation. We have enough power to do things ourselves if we as ‘the small guys’ collaborate and network. There’s a lot of value and opportunities within the network itself.
TIA: Do you think we are experiencing an entrepreneurship boom?
Lebo: No. Contrary to what the media says, there are reports that show we are actually in crisis – entrepreneurship has dropped. We need more innovation in business rather than survivalist business entrepreneurship. We have a lot of businesses that offer services, such as motivational speakers but we need more ‘makers of things’, manufacturing, to add value to the economy.
TIA: Do you think 100% employment is possible in South Africa?
Lebo: Yes and no. It’s a huge gap to fill. I think if we adopted the approach of ‘an entrepreneur in each home’, with family support, we could get close to filling this gap.
TIA: Do you think townships are the future?
Lebo: My view is controversial but I say – no.
TIA: Tell me about THUD and the rest of the African continent.
Lebo: Africa is beautiful. Africa is open for business and there are plenty of opportunities, even to meet the simplest of needs. There are many challenges, like corruption, but it’s not impossible. We have THUD teams in Dar es Salaam,Tanzania; Harare, Zimbabwe; Maseru, Lesotho; as well as Gaborone and Francistown in Botswana.
The hook ups happen every first Friday of the month. The aim is to have an active, vibrant, connected, well-networked and economically active tribe of 1 million startups across the African continent by 2020.
TIA: Thank you