3 Inspiring South African Entrepreneurs

By Carol Wilson – AfricanBrains

If you’re in the process of studying business, or if you are just now embarking on your business venture, you’re likely just beginning to realize how challenging it is to start and run a successful business or startup. There are so many different obstacles and variables—some that you can control and some that can’t—and sometimes it’ll just feel like an all-in-all impossible undertaking. When the going gets tough, entrepreneurs the world over can take a page of the book of some of South Africa’s greatest entrepreneurs. Here are a few:

Mark Richard Shuttleworth

Mark Shuttleworth is a veritable jack-of-all-trades. After receiving a business science degree in Finance and Information Systems at the University of Cape Town, Shuttleworth went on to found Thawte, a certificate authority (CA) for X.509 certificates. He started Thawte in his parents’ garage, and it eventually went on to become the second largest public CA on the Internet. Shuttleworth is also known for being one of the key developers of the Debian operating system. He’s funded the free software Ubuntu, a Debian-based Linux distribution. He’s also, interestingly enough, been to outer space as the first African in outer space and the first self-funded man in outer space.

Inspirational quote:

“A big part of willpower is having something to aspire to, something to live for.”

Anthony Edward Rupert

Anthony Edward Rupert’s story is particularly enthralling because he serves as inspiration for entrepreneurs who got started doing something else entirely. Originally planning to become a doctor, Rupert dropped out of medical school. Instead, he got a degree in chemistry and lectured at University of Pretoria. His first business venture was simply—a dry-cleaning business. Later, initially investing only about £10, Rupert started making cigarettes in his garage, which eventually turned into Rembrandt Group, a conglomerate of industrial and luxury branded items manufacturing. After investing in several different ventures, the scope of his reach is now in hundreds of companies all over the world. He’s a notable philanthropist, particularly in the realms of conservation and the arts.

Inspirational quote:

“He who does not believe in miracles is not a realist.”

Elon Musk

Elon Musk is a truly inspiring and intelligent South African entrepreneur. Without his parents’ blessing, he left South Africa at the age of 17 to pursue his education in Canada, and then eventually United States. He eventually earned two bachelor’s degrees, one in physics and one in economics from the University of Pennsylvania. He has said that he decided from the very beginning to pursue ideas and ventures in three areas most affecting humanity as a whole—space exploration, the Internet, and clean energy. And that he did. He co-founded PayPal, he founded SpaceX, a company that produces space exploration technologies, and he also co-founded Tesla Motors, responsible for creating the first modern production electric car.

Inspirational quote:

“Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, then you are not innovating enough.”

Of course, this is not meant to be an exhaustive list of South African entrepreneurs from whom to draw inspiration. They’re just a starting point, but it’s important to read about and learn from the greats. For more inspiring South African entrepreneurs, check out this list