Khethi Ngwenya’s entrepreneurial ventures began at the tender age of six selling hair products in his aunt’s salon. At 12 he owned his own stall selling fire crackers to the local community. At 17 he acted as CEO for the organisation the Young Entrepreneurs of Soweto. Now, finally Khethi is running his own business, SchoolMedia and he isn’t even close to slowing down yet…
“As a kid I found it fun to sell things,” Khethi explains on his early start in the business world. Growing up in Alberton and Soweto he furthers that he was a very hyperactive school child and so grabbed at every opportunity he got. “I even sold sunglasses to my schoolteachers at a stage,” Khethi laughs. At 16, however, when Khethi joined the Soweto Business Chamber’s organisation, Young Entrepreneurs of Soweto his first steps were taken to the formal business world. Unknowing then, this experience of going into class every Saturday, working on awareness issues about crime and HIV, would later act as instigation for his current venture, SchoolMedia.
“A year after I joined the organisation, I was elected as CEO where it became my responsibility to mentor students in ‘how to start a business.’” This was the moment Khethi began to see a gap in the educational market. “I went to school in an upmarket suburb, and I realised that there was so much more that I knew, that my classmates at the business school didn’t,” Khethi explains. And so he decided would on his focus and passion in life, he wanted to get relevant information to young people. “I first thought about creating a youth club or a youth magazine. But neither of those ideas were either practical or very reachable to young people. That’s when it hit me: Billboards! Advertising!” And SchoolMedia was born.
Asking Khethi whether SchoolMedia is a cold business or burning passion, he answers firmly, “seeing informational material and initiatives in school is what drives me. I wake up every morning to see more information and opportunities awarded to the youth.” SchoolMedia sells A1 size to 6 metre advertising boards to schools. Brands use the space to advertise whilst providing information such as how to apply for university, how to be environmentally conscious and even information around fashion and clothing. “This concept furthers education largely through competitions and topics that the advertisers host. Like the cleanest and greenest school will win movie tickets, or will list physical activities to do.” Khethi furthers explains that the relationship with information and well-known brands is a very important marriage to reach learners effectively. “When it’s a recognisable brands you are guaranteed attention and because it’s a well-known brand promoting the information, it actually accredits what is being read.”
Khethi joined MEDO earlier this year, although he has been applying since 2011. “I think I’ve finally matured enough,” he jokes. He reached out to MEDO as he explains he has no formal education apart from finishing high school. “I always knew I wanted to go into the corporate industry, but I had no formal knowledge of it. I learnt as I went along, but I needed that bit of clarity on the whole dynamics of running a business.” Did MEDO change the way he did business? “No, I was always on track,” he states, “they just helped me to make it more, to turn the volume up.”
Khethi’s dream for SchoolMedia is to start playing a major role in education. “I want to go into the whole world of media, software and hardware. And I want to bring that into schools.” That dream might not be as far down the rabbit-hole as he thinks however, judging by how far he has come for an under 30-year old yuppie.