Fred Ajusi learnt from an early age the importance of saving as well as making your own money.
A fourth year BCom economics and finance student, Ajusi takes pride in being financially savvy.
“People call me stingy,” he chuckles. “They think I'm a stingy guy because I don't like to spend money, and I think that it's not that I'm stingy; I just understand the value of money,” explains Ajusi. “When you understand the value of money, and you realise the idea behind spending, you realise that small changes that you make to your spending habits can have a major impact on your long-run financial standing.”
His passion for entrepreneurship stemmed from having no desire to work for someone else.
“I was always asked, 'What do you want to be one day?' or 'Where do you want to work? Who do you want to work for?' and I could just never really see myself working for someone. There was always that hunger to do my own thing.”
Ajusi hails from Witbank, Mpumalanga, and says that UCT has helped him grow immensely as an entrepreneur.
“Since coming to UCT, I can proudly say that I have experienced an incredible amount of year-on-year growth and that I have developed a skill set which will be sure to help me in all my future endeavours,” he says.
As students, the time is now
A number of his friends joined UCT Upstarts in 2015 and he heard only good things about the programme, which inspired him to apply.
“For me growth is essential. So I thought Upstarts would just be that next opportunity to grow myself and give myself another opportunity to complete the process of becoming an entrepreneur at student level,” says Ajusi.
Ajusi and his team, consisting of Tofumni Olagoke, Mduduzi Masilela and Ella Alcock, created The Uniform Exchange, which seeks to revolutionise the second-hand school uniform market.
“We're trying to ensure that every child in the country is able to buy a uniform at an affordable rate,” says Ajusi.
The Uniform Exchange will collect outgrown uniforms and incentivise this by providing monetary vouchers. The vouchers will enable learners to buy their next uniforms at a fraction of the price. The team is currently finalising partnerships with several schools in the Cape Town area.
Although he was presented with the challenge of being placed in a group with people he did not know, Ajusi has enjoyed the Upstarts programme.
“You're forced to get to know them because that synergy comes from being able to relate to the people you work with. In business that's extremely important because partnerships require you to relate with different types of people from different backgrounds,” he says.
The programme has also covered branding and pitching extensively, which Ajusi plans to use in his own thriving business, Tenge.
Be proud of your identity
Ajusi founded Tenge, an African-print clothing company, with a friend, Andri Ntema, last year. The name Tenge stems from the words kitenge and chitenge, which are the names of African fabrics.
“We are really passionate about business in Africa and we've always had a vision of creating the Africa that we wish to see. So [we're] enacting the changes that we wish to see in society,” he explains.
Ajusi and Ntema saw a gap in the market for custom-made African attire.
“We saw that we, as Africans, still dress like Europeans, still talk like Europeans, and our lifestyle is still very Eurocentric,” says Ajusi. “We just wanted to get rid of a bit of that Eurocentrism and have Africans take pride in the African style of dress.”
Tenge allows customers to bring their designs and have them tailor-made.
“You may not want an outfit that's completely African, and you may want something that's more European with an African touch,” says Ajusi.
Ajusi says the aim is to get Africans to dress more African and engage with their African identity.
Fail now and learn from those mistakes
Time management has been a key attribute to Ajusi's success. He describes the past two years as hectic.
“It's quite taxing, it really is, but I guess your motivation and your drive just pushes you to go the extra mile,” he says.
He managed his time and business by attending classes on campus in the mornings, and then sorting out the business admin in the afternoons. He'd then work on his academics in the evenings.
“When you don't see yourself working for someone, you need to make sure that you become your own boss and take matters into your own hands and work towards that,” he says.
Ajusi advises aspiring entrepreneurs to take action and start now.
“If you don't start with it now, it probably won't end up happening. I think, as students, now is the time we should be developing our ideas. We have access to so many networks and a helpful support system – these things are really at our fingertips,” says Ajusi.
“It's really a process of failing forward: fail now and learn from those mistakes. Failure leads to progress.”
Story Chido Mbambe. Photo Michael Hammond.
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