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Lebo Gunguluza On His Journey To Become A Billionnaire (Biography)

Wednesday, November 18,2015
Published by Jackson Mathebula
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Having set clear goals of financial success for himself at the tender age that: by the age of 25, he must have been a millionaire; by the age of 35, he must have been a multi-millionaire; and by the age of 45, he must be a billionaire, Lebo Gunguluza achieved his firs

t goal, at the age of 27, when he made his first million rand through a series of entertainment events and activities that redefined the possibilities of success.

Early Years: Lebo Gunguluza was born in Port Elizabeth were he matriculated with flying colours. Armed only with R60, he got on a bus to study at the University of Natal in Durban. This is where he worked part-time at a retail store to fund his full time studies. After acquiring his degree in record time, he then decided to move to Johannesburg to get a job to help support his family.

Getting Started: Lebo Gunguluza’s first experience in the world of media and business was with SABC, selling advertising space on black radio stations. This is where he developed a passion for the media industry. Before long he was promoted as Brand Communications Executive and spent most of his time designing programme packages that the advertisers bought into. He then moved through to Metro FM, ending up as Marketing & Sales Manager, and was sent to USA to attend a broadcast and media-training course. On his return, he joined  Herdbuoys as Accounts Manager, where he managed key accounts like SA Breweries, Metro FM and the return of Hush Puppies to South Africa

Gunguluza’s upward-bound career came to a screeching halt in 1997 when he embarked upon a process of self-discovery that resulted in his resignation from Herdbuoys. “I knew I was going to be an entrepreneur”, he says. “I had made the decision to take responsibility for myself and had decided that I was not be surviving from hand to mouth in a new democracy with great opportunities, when I also needed to support my family in Port Elizabeth who were going through a rough patch.”


Entrepreneurial Spirit: Lebo Gunguluza’s entrepreneurial drive secured his first business deal with the owner of a night club called Insomnia, where he put together entertainment attractions and marketed them in exchange for a percentage at the door. The success of this deal made him a well-known promoter in entertainment circles with a reputation for organizing the best parties in Johannesburg. He used this opportunity to partner with YFM, a new youth radio station at that time, conceptualized major events that made him a big player and helped him reach a peak on his financial success through his sold-out youth events at Newtown’s Electric Workshop. The news of Gunguluza's success spread through the entertainment industry like wildfire and sparked an army of young budding entrepreneurs all wanting to start similar businesses. He responded to the imitators by  establishing Gunguluza Entertainment, where he diversified his business interest by starting an independent record label and artist management unit which led him to form strategic partnerships with key promoters.

He invested most of his resources on these new initiatives but the return on investment was never realized. The market was also very fickle and unreliable, and the promoters were not helping either with their dodgy operational ethics. This was not enough to sustain his business. By early 1999 his income had slowly petered out and he was left burdened by debt. He was forced to sell his car and close all his account and had to bear the humiliation of being blacklisted with the credit bureau. Things got so bad that for a while he had to rely on his family to pay his rent. He lost weight simply because he could not afford to buy food.

It was in this, the darkest time of his life, that Gunguluza learnt three priceless lessons in business by which he has lived ever since. These were the importance of working with a good paying market, managing cash flow and the value of planning in business. “This was a light bulb moment in my life,” says Gunguluza. “As strange as it may sound, it had never occurred to me that I should carefully manage my cash flow or even plan my business.”

It was also during this time of poverty that he asked himself a critical question “Why is he so broke, and yet famous figures such as Richard Branson, Donald Trump and the the Onassis of this world were so rich.” He made a decision that day to go read about these guys. He spent endless hours at the CNA, reading biographies of these billionaires, and from time to time being chased away by staff members for not buying the books.

This learning phase inspired him to continue his entrepreneurial journey, with two great lessons on hand, the first one being that “Whatever business you go into, you must love it and know it like the back of your hand” and the second lesson being that “You must be its number one salesperson and that all companies are always looking for the best salesperson to improve their bottom-line”. Instead of allowing depression over his failure to engulf him, Gunguluza decided to start again from scratch and look for a new business opportunity that avoided the pitfalls of his last business. “This time I was looking for sustainability in a business,” he says. “I wanted to target a more stable clientele than before (a good paying market)”.

The birth of GEM Group of Companies: Lebo Gunguluza recognized his business sustainability was in the private sector, and that this market segment is broader and diverse. He secured himself a position in a corporate communication company to learn more about the business of selling media space in publishing and corporate events.  Nine-months later, to showcase a clear change in focus he established Corporate Fusion, a corporate communication and events management company. Within 18 months, this company that was run from a townshouse with a single telephone line was generating over R2 Million. Gunguluza rewarded himself by buying himself amongst other things his first Porsche that he always wanted. Building on the success of Corporate Fusion, Gunguluza formed GIDE, a youth development and career guidance development company in partnership with his brother who also joined the growing group of companies.  A year later the turnover had doubled, and Gunguluza decided to move into proper offices and register Gunguluza Enterprises and media, known today as the GEM Group, which was establishe

2 Months ago 

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