What does it take to make a success of yourself? If you were to ask Sinethemba Dangazele, the Founder and Owner of PES (Promotions & Events with Sinethemba), his answer would likely be short and to the point: you work for it.
Sinethemba is still a young man, but a young man brimming with quiet determination and discipline that cannot help but inspire anybody listening to him talk. Raised by his mom in Gugulethu and surrounded by a tight-knit family, Sinethemba’s spirit for the industry was sparked from a young age. Before finishing school, he knew what he didn’t want to do. He didn’t want to be bogged down in a 9-5 job that risked clipping his entrepreneurial wings. By contrast, he was sure he’d like to do something his community, neighborhood, and city could be proud of. As he cast about for ideas, he finally descended on working in events management, a space with a massive consumer appetite that has remained peculiarly underdeveloped in Cape Town.
Fast-forward to 2018, Sinethemba graduated from CPUT with a National Diploma in Events Management. With the vision for a new events management business burning intensely within him, he is already moving to establish his own business during his studies. With his idea pretty well formed in his mind, he figures, why wait? Thus, by taking lessons from his classes and plugging them directly into his vision for a stand-out events company, he can secure NYDA funding straight out of university, which allows him to invest in inventory and other materials critical to his business. Additional funding comes from SEDA and TSIBA, enabling him to become operational before his studies.
Despite his youth, it has now been over half a decade since Sinethemba successfully ran PES, catering for weddings, funerals, anniversaries, and many other things. When I catch up with him in a garage in Gugz (where he stores his bakkie and most of his inventory), we sit opposite one another on a couple of regal golden Tiffany chairs he now uses for his weddings. With hundreds of happy clients over the years, it is evident that PES is already becoming an established name in the events management game. But Sinethemba does not strike me as the kind of person to rest on laurels. So I ask him where he goes from here.
“My ambition is to create a modern, quality business based in Cape Town that is also ethical, reliable, and relatable and can rival anything Johannesburg can offer,” is his response. Indeed, the unique event culture in Soweto is a big inspiration for Sinethemba. Already, he believes that Khayelitsha is on the up, with new ventures such as the Spade Boutique Hotel proving that there is space and opportunity in the townships for entrepreneurs and visionaries to do things that have never been done before. However, there is still always room to improve and to grow.
Today, PES provides chic-looking stretch tents and equipment for all types of events. The business has a steadily growing inventory of chairs, tables, tents, pots, stoves, cutlery, and table dressings and can cater to up to five or six hundred people at a time. This is already a massive upgrade from where the business started when Sinethemba could offer clients only an essential selection of old-school ‘peg & pole’ tents and a basic inventory of simple black and white chairs. Typically, the business supplies birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, religious ceremonies, and funerals. Still, Sinethemba has his sights set on an ever-expanding repertoire of more lucrative events down the line, including luxury expos, political rallies, music and food festivals, academic workshops, and film production.
However, as with all entrepreneurs, Sinethemba’s focus is not just financial. There is a more profound vision too. As well as being inspired by the prospect of providing the backdrop to the significant life occasions of his community, he wants to sow opportunities for those who can work but haven’t yet caught their big break or those who need a second chance. For Sinethemba, the business is more significant than he or his gain; it is also about building up his community and giving hope to the hopeless.
So how does ikeja help him get to where he wants to be? Aside from providing the reliable internet connectivity essential to any SME today, Sinethemba relies on his connection to research business opportunities, scout different aesthetics to offer clients, network with suppliers, and spearhead his marketing efforts. Moreover, being online helps him identify further opportunities for personal development, such as the postgraduate diploma in Business Administration that he is currently enrolled in.
Before wrapping up our interview, I asked him what advice he would offer to the country’s youth. Practical to a fault, he tells me he would advise any young entrepreneur to enroll in some form of higher education upon leaving school. As he says, when you register in higher education with a purpose, “those photography students, law students, and business administration students you meet—upon graduating, will become the basis of your ready-made professional network.”
Furthermore, he believes the higher level of learning offered in tertiary education exposes you to more mature ideas and shows you what is possible in the real world of work. Finally, being surrounded by educated and ambitious peers teaches you the language and expectations of educated professionals that will ultimately help you to level up your business. Once that is in place, he counsels young people to banish their fear and show the world what they’re about. “Show them,” he says. “Show them with deeds.”