12 Entrepreneurial Lessons We Can Learn From The Autobiography Of Herman Mashaba

Black Like You is the autobiography of ActionSA leader, Herman Mashaba, who came from humble streets of Hammanskraal to become one of South Africa’s wealthiest and best-known entrepreneurs.

Herman Mashaba, founder of Black Like Me and leader of ActionSA

After being forced to drop out of university in his early 20s, Mashaba fought very hard to establish the first black-owned haircare company in the country, Black Like Me.

How Eureka Became The Go-To Brand For Fasteners In Southern Africa

Alongside the late Richard Maponya, Mashaba has always been the face of black entrepreneurship in South Africa especially during the apartheid years.

He’s a hero to many aspiring entrepreneurs – If he can do it during the harsh apartheid days, surely we can do it in the fresh dew of democracy. His rise to the top is of a person who demonstrated the true spirit of entrepreneurship.

The Rise & Success of First National Bank

Black Like You is full of entrepreneurial nuggets not to miss, here’s the 12 lessons we picked from the book:

01. Don’t Be A Victim of Your Circumstances

Herman and someone else’s BMW

Mashaba grew up poor in the dusty streets of GaRamotse in Hammamskraal during the harsh apartheid times, but that still didn’t stop him from making a success of himself.

How Zibusiso Mkhwanazi Rose From The Ashes & Turned R2000 Into R200 Million

02. Try A Different Route If Your Initial Plans Don’t Work

From a young age, Mashaba always believed that scholastic education was the only way out of poverty, until he was forced to dropout of varsity as he couldn’t pay his fees. He had to go the business route to liberate himself from poverty.

How A UKZN Dropout Became A Multimillionaire From Selling Cleaning Products

03. When You Have Nothing To Lose, You Have Everything To Gain

Growing up during apartheid where the laws made it illegal for blacks to own businesses, Mashaba figured he had nothing to lose, and ventured into that business world anyway.

04. Never Wait For Funding To Start A Business

Mashaba started selling Black Like Me products from the boot of his car, until he managed to secure a contract from a big hair manufacturer, which in turn led him to expand his business much further.

05. You Can’t Do Everything By Yourself

Early days in business: Herman (right) with colleagues Johan and Joseph at the Black Like Me factory 

Mashaba recruited his 2 colleagues at SuperCurl including a white chemist to front his business as it was illegal for blacks to own a business in the country.

How Tshepho Mekoa Beat The Odds & Successfully Launched Brima Logistics

06 You Don’t Have To Use Your Product or Service

You don’t have to use your product or service; you only have to be sure of its worth to other people. Feeding an appetite doesn’t require you to share the
same hunger.

One who sells a bottle of water doesn’t need to be thirsty himself. To quench others’ thirsts, you only need to see and understand their thirst. You don’t
have to share it.

Mashaba made a fortune out of selling Black Like Me products, but
he’s got no hair to apply those products on.

How A Messy Divorce Helped Nomfundo Mcoyi Buid Her Funeral Service Empire

07. Start Small While Dreaming Big

The first Black Like Me factory was only 200 sq. feet, but as time went on, Mashaba expanded the factory to over 6000 sq. feet in just 5 years.

08. Rise From The Ashes, It Is Only Over If You Say It Is

In November 1993, disaster struck Herman Mashaba’s ‘Black Like Me’ factory in Mabopane. He received a phone call
around 2am from his security guard with the news:

“There is smoke coming out of the factory.”

Soon afterwards, Mashaba and his wife watched helplessly as flames devoured his business, despite that all, he still told his
staff that, “we will rise out of the ashes”

The insurance company played tricks and paid him half the value of the business but nonetheless, HE BUILT ANOTHER

The Story of How Renier van Rooyen Founded Pep Stores

09. Always Save For The Future

When the factory was burned down, Mashaba had no income rolling in, so he had to rely on his savings to sustain his livelihood.

10. The Customer Never Waits

Mashaba realized that if his products weren’t on the shelves, consumers were never gonna wait for him.

Its important to keep up your supply so your clients never resort to the competition for products or services.

How Bakers Became The Number One Biscuit Manufacturer In South Africa

11. Learn To Face Problems & Solve Them

Problems will always come, Mashaba’s ability to survive was dependent on having the skill to navigate through life or business problems when they arose.

The Rise & Success of K-Way Clothing Brand

12. Never Give Up & Always Believe In Yourself

Herman and his wife Connie with their children Rhulani (left) and Khensani

According to Mashaba, all you need to succeed is self-reliance and a never say die attitude, because when you believe in yourself, you can overcome self-doubt and have the confidence to take action and eventually get things done.


Get South Africa’s latest entrepreneurial or business success stories delivered right to your inbox – Sign up to Entrepreneur Hub SA’s newsletter today ⬇️⬇️⬇️


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *