Meshack Mulaudzi’s entrepreneurial journey started, like many other small business owners, with a problem no-one else solved. He could not find a doll for his daughter that would confirm her beauty, as she is. All the dolls he could find were either too white or over-priced!
Little did this Chartered Accountant knew when he launched Kaelo Black Beauty three years ago, that he’d soon need help with growing his business since creating the best approach to managing a growing team of employees is not something you can look up in a textbook.
“There are so many things you don’t think about when you need to add staff members. When you start growing, it’s not a matter of just adding another team member,” he says.
“Initially, we just asked a relative to come help when we needed more hands, but when hiring people from outside, things change radically. You have to advertise, create job specifications, do interviews, look up criminal records, do background checks, and when they start it is instilling the culture of the organisation so that they support the values and mission of our company.”
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HR systems vs business culture
Working as a top executive at Sasol Pension Fund, completing an Honours Degree in accounting at the University of Johannesburg, and qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, did not prepare him for the practical questions about striking a balance between introducing HR systems and keeping the business culture alive.
It is only when he became an Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Fellow where he met Cynthia Pillay, that he gained the needed perspective and support. She is an HR specialist from Lusona Consultants who work with small and growing businesses in addressing their approach to managing people.
Cynthia and Meshack will join the next episode of the IBASA & EPI Webinar Series as guests to share their story with business advisors who are faced with similar challenges in helping their small business clients to adopt the best-suited HR approach.
Legal requirements plus culture
While Cynthia has extensive HR experience, including heading up the HR department of Toshiba in Johannesburg, she understands those fancy systems do not always address the needs of smaller businesses. “While you need to understand the main HR non-negotiables to meet legislative requirements, the challenge for a small business is to introduce good practices while nurturing the culture they wish to have in their businesses,” she says.
In working with clients such as Meshack, Cynthia aims to help the business to prevent fallout such as disciplinary issues and high staff turnover.
“What is critical and what to think about is the future and building a culture. You have to align your business strategy with the type of talent you will need in your business in the future. You need to consider what kind of people will fit the unfolding requirements, and then you create the HR systems,” she says.
This approach is based on having a clear picture of the future talent requirements so that an appropriate HR approach may be adopted, tailored for the specific business.
Armed with an Honours degree in psychology, Cynthia is adding to her skill-set by completing a Masters degree in executive coaching at Wits University with the aim to add support in the “soft” issues business face in building well-functioning teams.
Inspiring self-love from young
Kaelo Black Beauty designs, manufactures and distributes Mahle Dolls in efforts to inspire early-stage self-love among black children.
“I didn’t like what was available on the market, it was either not pretty or overpriced, so I set out to design a doll just for my daughter,” he explains. “We use these toys to inspire a message of self-love and identity, teaching girls to know: You are beautiful as you are!”
The Mahle brand also includes a special hair-care range for kids, teaching children to keep their hair well maintained without harsh chemical treatments. Kaelo will soon cater for boys too, with a range of toys based on an action figure called Captain Africa, aka CA. CA teaches young boys to respect and protect women and to grow up to be a man of good character.
“My single mother planted the seed of entrepreneurship in me. From an early age, she used to take me along to her stall in town to sell fruits,” tells Meshack. “She taught me the art of identifying problems people face and bringing solutions to solve those problems for money.”
Kaelo is currently securing funding to scale-up the business to supply national retailers and will launch the Captain Africa brand in December.
- Christoff Oosthuysen is the host of the IBASA & EPI Webinar Series and Founding CEO of the Entrepreneurial Planning Institute (EPI).
- To join the next episode of the IBASA & EPI Webinar Series, CLICK HERE.