Capitilizing on a business opportunity after the ill treatment of an orphan by a property owner, Levi Mnguni is the founder of Levingston Student Accommodation, a 100% black owned company with over 300 tenants occupying its premises.
On top of that, he’s also the CEO of Compubooks, and the recently launched, Thuto Stationery.
Growing up with his grandparents in the small village of Troya, Levi never thought he would be where he is today, he was forced to sell viennas at a young age to help with the income at home.
“I hated it. I always told myself I am going to work in a nice office, with a twirling chair one day,”
Little did he know that experience would be handy some day.
After matriculating, he went to enroll at the Tshwane University of Technology, there he met his roommate who indirectly changed his life forever — he was an orphan and experienced a great deal of abuse growing up.
In February of that year, the roommate couldn’t continue to pay his rent besides being a bursary holder. The landlord requested a meeting, and Levi was asked to interpret.
“The landlord asked where the rent money was, and he explained that he was an orphan and had been abused for many years and the guys who were helping him with money for rent had problems.”
The words that came out of the mouth of the landlord sent chills down Levi’s spine.
“If he doesn’t have parents, what does he want us to do? we’re not running a charity case here…..we want money, otherwise he must vacate our premises.”
Levi couldn’t translate such a response, and instead opted to leave the meeting. The next day he found himself helping the trio move out, they went and found another place to live in together.
That fateful day gave birth to Levingston Student Accommodation, the company was officially registered in 2010 to help students find accommodation.
“We entered into the field, not as property owners, but as agents where we would make it easy for students to find accommodation in the townships.”
It wasn’t a smooth sailing at first, they only managed to place 26 students after opening their offices, which dropped to a low 8 by June of that year.
The following year, Levi decided to move a step closer to the main plan which was to assist bursary holders.
“I reviewed the concept and only focused on bursary holders and we managed to place 76 students and that boosted the turnover.”
By 2014, the company’s turnover was around R1.4 million, with three individuals employed.
In 2015, after seeing a flaw that disadvantaged students, Livi launched Rent Secure, a personalised service for bursary holders.
“You would find that a bursary holder will be looking for accommodation and the landlord wants money, but the scheme only pays in October. We step in and secure that rental for the months pending payment,”
In May 2016, Levi identified another challenge faced by bursary holders, the issue of getting study materials on time.
Similarly to the rental aspect faced by bursary holders, Livi launched Compubooks. The idea behind the company is to cut the red tape, and make sure students have the required resources to flourish in their studies.
“Companies offer bursaries but miss the little things that happen in between starting school and when the schemes actually pay out.”
In July 2020, he founded Thuto Stationery, a stationary brand, which is the leading manufacturer of quality-driven product lines that are made by Africans, for Africans.
“I have been supplying stationery to schools through Compubooks, and we are expected to make a presentation about the brand we are supplying.
“I got bothered with presenting products I knew nothing about. That’s when the concept of Thuto Stationary was developed.
I wanted to come up with a brand that spoke to us as Africans hence the use of colours and patterns,”
Thuto products can be spotted with their vibrant colours and patterns. The main products are pencils, eraser, glue, ruler, exercise books and pocket files.
Advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
“JUST GO FOR IT.”
Get South Africa’s latest entrepreneurial or business success stories delivered right to your inbox — Sign up to Entrepreneur Hub SA’s newsletter today ⬇️⬇️⬇️