Behind every great mentor is a great story waiting to be told. We’ve shared some of them here. For the fast facts and essential elements that led to the leadership successes of these supernovas, be sure to check in frequently on our featured mentors.
If guts and glory had a name it would be boxing legend Brian Mitchell: 45 wins, one loss and three draws, and he’s the only SA boxer ever to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. But there’s more to the man than an unexpected upper cut. Brian was the world’s No 2 boxer when the local media decided he had bitten off more than he could chew. But true legends always punch above their weight, and he went on to win one world title after another. And he’s had his share of misfortune. At the age of 24, Brian had to deal with the death of Jacob Morake, following a knockout in the ring. It was a mother’s forgiveness that helped him win the world title in Jacob’s name. The former pugilist is now a passionate trainer of young contenders.
Hugh Bladen needs no introduction – his voice is woven into our collective sporting memory. He’s taken us on a tour through the highs and lows of SA rugby for almost four decades, from international isolation to World Cup victory. And while he always commentates from the side lines, his dramatic reports take us right onto the field and into the fray. Hugh was always sport mad – over the years, he’s played rugby, league squash, tennis, cricket, baseball and hockey, but he found his voice in 1976 and, since then, has built the tension from the commentary box on big match days. He’s earned multiple honours and an induction into the SA Hall of Fame along the way, and his 2006 memoir chronicles our country’s greatest sporting travails and triumphs.
Queen of continental couture, Anisa Mpungwe has celebrities and style sophisticates – from Luanda and Joburg to Stockholm and New York – banging at her door for more of her coveted neo-African clothing line, Loin Cloth & Ashes (LCA). Since launching her brand in 2008, she’s won numerous awards, served as the first ambassador for the MRP Foundation’s Ambassador & Mentorship Programme, and was chosen to gift one of her designs to former US first lady, Michelle Obama. She has collaborated with blue-chip brands like Samsung, Maserati and Converse. Her fusion of traditional and post-modern textiles lends a signature look to all her designs. Her mantra? The place where you are the happiest is the same place you’ll find your passion and purpose.
Valentine Nti is big on building a network of financially-qualified business leaders. He’s all for lighting a fire under all things financial, and, as founding chief executive of the CharterQuest Professional Education Institute and its affiliated sub-brands, he’s encouraging CFOs to set aside self-interest and adopt a deeply collaborative competitive strategy. He’s committed to nothing less than ushering in a new ‘world order’, where mutually shared objectives define financial decision-making. With over 16 years’ experience in the private and public sectors, as a lecturer at Wits and GIBS, and through serving blue-chip multinationals such as Anglo American and Standard Chartered Bank, he’s charting new territory in the world of finance.
Vusi Thembekwayo is a veritable virtuoso and tour de force – and something of a child prodigy. By the age of 17 he was already ranked first in Africa for public speaking, and was placed third in the world at the English-Speaking Union International Competition. At 25 he made enough noise to land a role as head of a R400 million division in a R17 billion multi-national. He’s put that gift of the gab to good use and is now a global speaker, venture capitalist and author. Today he drags companies kicking and screaming towards self-realisation. He’s been called a maverick, and owns this appellation with pride. When he’s not globe-trotting, in the Dragon’s Den or parenting, this petrolhead is making his mark – skid marks! – on the F1 tracks.
A career in journalism is not for the faint-hearted. Verashni Pillay embodies the pioneering, courageous spirit needed to do the job justice. Her stellar rise through the ranks and her early adoption of digital within journalism have led to several prestigious awards, such as the 2012 CNN African Journalist of the Year award in the inaugural digital journalism category, the 2013 inaugural Standard Bank Sikuvile award for multiplatform journalism, and her inclusion in the BBC’s 100 Women in 2015. She’s cut her teeth as editor-in-chief at some of the most sought-after publications in SA, such as the Mail & Guardian – where she drove circulation figures dramatically – and Huffington Post (SA). She’s since moved on to head digital at POWER 98.7.
Retired she may be, but there’s no stopping Nomava Mercy Tunzelana. Trained as a teacher at a Catholic mission school in the '60s, Nomava found her true calling and has never looked back. Since then she has focused on teaching children and adults with special needs, focusing on Deaf and Blind learners. But, more than a teacher, she is a lifelong learner. She’s lectured in African Linguistics at the University of Fort Hare, served as consultant specialist for curriculum issues in special needs schools, founded Sibonathi GF, which trains government departments on SA Sign Language, registered for a PhD, and provided dedicated mentorship to Deaf adults in the hospitality industry. In the words of her daughter, she is a true ‘servant leader’.
Trevor radiates resolve and enthusiasm. He’s a man on a mission to help corporate SA transform, by shifting substantial procurement spend to black-owned businesses. And he’s moved close to R1 billion so far since the start-up of ProcureSense in 2017. Trevor believes the key to poverty alleviation in SA is through enabling SMMEs, and with less than 10% of corporate SA’s procurement spend with black-owned SMMEs, Trevor saw the gap. As his company’s tagline has it, ‘We don’t talk transformation; we do transformation.’ And he’s been recognised for his efforts as a Top-20 finalist at the 2018 SA Small Business Awards. With 15 years of management experience, Trevor understands the pain points that SMMEs face daily, and he’s out to change that.
Nolitha overcame immense early childhood trauma and privation 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 work with EnviroServe to transport their waste in both KZN and Gauteng. This supernova was recently recognised at the 2018 Top-20 SA Small Business Awards gala, with the National Rising Star Champion Award. Nolitha is also a certified master coach and hypnotherapist, biofeedback practitioner and motivational speaker, whose core passion is in empowering women to penetrate 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.
Local is lekker... and localised even better. No-one embodies this more than Wandile Zando,who turned his hood into a hub of creativity and entrepreneurial magic. With zero start-upcapital but a sure sense of style, Wandile resold used clothes on the streets of Soweto with hisfriends, and in 2005 co-launched Thesis Lifestyle, an urban brand built on four pillars: clothing,retail spaces, events and social impact. They turned a dump site in Kagiso into a solar-powered, off-the-grid space and, before they knew it, fellow creatives were flocking to theirdoor. Up next is a whole lot of horizontal growth, as Thesis expands its offering across othertownships. His mantra? ‘Pressa, pusha, panda. Persevere, be optimistic, and hustle hard.’