Success Story

Entertainer Lebo Gunguluza shares how he came from nothing and became a self-made millionaire

From a poverty-stricken background, Lebo Gunguluza from South Africa was full of lofty ideas and ambitions. He had a passion for success and would stop at nothing to ensure that whatever he touched yielded massive results.

Inspired by the stories of great black billionaires and entrepreneurs in and outside Africa, Gunguluza set a target for himself to become a millionaire at the age of 25 but he couldn’t. He became a millionaire at the age of 27, making him one of South Africa’s youngest self-made millionaires.

His journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur was long and daunting but he remained unfazed. Economic demands from his family fueled his ambition to make enough money to not only take them out of poverty but to also create jobs for others.

He started his career as a sales executive at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). His output at SABC saw him get promoted twice within two years and became marketing manager for Metro FM by age 24.

He later joined the advertising industry after his failed attempt to go to the USA to upgrade his skills in broadcasting. He joined advertising mavericks, Herdbuoys. Despite his lucrative salary, Gunguluza wanted something more than just working for others.

He started mulling various entrepreneurial ideas, including his ability to organize big parties. “I was really good at throwing big parties at home,” he told Leader. “Why was I getting all these people to eat my food and drink my alcohol for free when I could be making money from them?”

Gunguluza subsequently quit Herdbuoys and the comfort of a monthly pay cheque to launch his first business called Gunguluza Entertainment. With no cash flow to sustain the business, he leveraged his sales skills to win contracts.

“There was a nightclub called Insomnia in Sandton that was not doing too well. I approached the owners and told them I would bring the crowds if they let me take the door. That way they could make their money by selling drinks.”

According to him, he made $500 (R7,000) on his first night and continued to earn around $400 per event. Gunguluza later changed the nature of his business after someone replicated what he was doing. He began booking artists he had come to know over the years and quickly became a popular talent manager. 

He leveraged his event management and hosting success to launch other businesses, including investment in the media, hospitality, technology and property. For instance, he acquired an interest in media companies and tripled their turnover by boosting their sales and marketing. He also partnered with Uhuru Communications, the publisher of SAA’s Sawubona magazine.

Gunguluza acquired an interest in several hotels and launched a car hire company. According to Leader, Gunguluza’s business empire brings in millions of dollars, putting him in the millionaire category in South Africa. Gunguluza lost his fortune in 1999 but bounced back. That inspired him to found the South African Black Entrepreneurs Forum (SABEF) in 2008 to educate young Black entrepreneurs on why they need to have a business plan and hold onto cash.

Meanwhile, the celebrated businessman also became a panelist on Dragon’s Den, a television show in South Africa that grooms young entrepreneurs.

Abu Mubarik

Abu Mubarik is a journalist with years of experience in digital media. He loves football and tennis.

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