|David Kokong, entrepreneur|
Mtsamai David Kokong became his own boss in 2000. He made a R10 investment in a training manual and went on to excel as an independent field advertiser (IFA) for life insurance/assurance giant Clientèle Life. And with more than 7 500 people in his network and an unwavering belief in himself, business success was sure to follow!
Have you always been entrepreneurial?
Always! I can specifically recall being seven years old, lining my friends up to catch fish in the river and then selling it for pocket money. At nine, I discovered that people were always hungry at township funerals because they’re so long, so I improvised and started selling cooked mielies and fish cakes to the attendees – even the pastors bought from me!
What provided the push you needed to go on your own?
I was a correctional officer for 20 years, which landed me the position as the head of the Goodwood Prison in Cape Town, as well as doing IFA part-time. It dawned on me one day, while comparing my salary advice slip to my IFA commission statement, that I was earning more money with IFA, with a quarter of the stress associated with running prison. My fear of sustaining my lifestyle past retirement age gave me the push to go into IFA full-time – I couldn’t see myself getting a job just to make ends meet after the age of 60, which also meant that I wouldn’t be able to be in the ministry full-time either.
IFA is founded on the principles of “ubuntu” meaning daring, caring and sharing, so through IFA, Clientèle Life is bridging the gap between the haves and the have not’s in order to eradicate poverty. That really appealed to me as a black entrepreneur – as part of IFA, the necessary mechanisms are in place to help you succeed. They’ve simplified the business plan and incorporated it into a living programme to ensure the success and sustainability of the business. I worked from anywhere and everywhere and, as long there are people, my business thrives simply because I’m a networker.
What’s your big dream for this venture?
Apart from building the brand and being a good example to others, my late father, Pastor M. Z. Kokong of Apostelic Faith Mission (AFM) instilled in me that every person has the potential to be someone and that we’re not to judge anyone. In my quest to be in ministry, I soon realised that in order for me to bless others, I have to be blessed. My involvement in IFA equips me to be financially free and to guide and empower others to financial freedom. Consequently, I have a vision that through IFA we can touch so many people’s lives, provide them with the opportunity to rekindle their hopes, instil self-worth and, most importantly, to be able to provide for their families without being dependent on government handouts.
What was your most epic fail in the early days and what did you learn from it?
My business suffered a bad blow during the recession when a lot of people lost their jobs and couldn’t afford to pay their premiums. But I stayed focussed and motivated my team to see the bigger picture, changing my strategy to use the dip of the recession to secure new business.
What are the two biggest/most common mistakes entrepreneurs make?
They put all their eggs in one basket and give up too easily. Only the strong and toughest will survive. As the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day; good quality things take time.
Is it ever alright to give up on a dream?
No, never ever give up! Believe in yourself and your dreams; once others see your passion they will believe as well.
What’s your life motto?
Work like a slave today to live like a king tomorrow.
What three character traits do all entrepreneurs possess?
The foresight to identify money-making opportunities in places or instances where others do not, the ability not to give up; to persevere and innovation.
If you could give yourself any advice back then, what are your top 5 wisdoms?
* Faith – believe in yourself even when nobody else does.