Like most other kids in Ekangala, Karidas Tshintsholo had grown to be quite familiar with the jarring jingle of the ice-cream truck which made rounds in the area every other week. Even before the catchy tune became a far-drawn whir in the ears of the adults, the kids had already grown delirious, scampering to their parents and caregivers for the weekly treat.
Karidas was one of such kids who lived for those weekly treats but on this particular Sunday, he didn’t have much luck. The little boy grew up under the care of a single parent – his father had left shortly after he was born – and for a mother who had to work multiple jobs just to take care of basic needs like food and shelter, spending on ice-cream was a luxury that couldn’t always be afforded – not while there were other more important bills to offset.
So, on this day, Karidas couldn’t get even a cent off his mom to get some ice-cream. it wasn’t that he had been a naughty boy and she was holding out as a way of punishing him. There was just no money to spare for such triviality.
The households of Ekangala – the township outside of Pretoria, South Africa – where Karidas grew up were mostly impoverished, but parents and caregivers still managed to squeeze out some change for the weekly flavour ritual. And when he got a no from his mother on this occasion, the little boy burst into a tantrum fit as other kids enjoyed their cones and creams.
He may have been only four-years-old at the time but when his mom tried to pacify him with explanations regarding why she couldn’t give him the treat even though she badly wanted to, the little boy saw reason.
It was a heartbreaking experience for the kid but he also learnt an important lesson.
Despite being only a child, he discovered it was up to him to get for himself whatever ‘treats’ he desired while his mom took care of the more pressing needs of the home. And just like that, a relentless entrepreneur had been born.
Karidas became quite aware of the lack and hardship that surrounded him from a very early age, and the desire to break free from those instilled in him a hustling spirit. At only six years of age, he was overseeing an operation in which a group of kids in his neighbourhood made wire cars while he earned a commission from selling them to the more-privileged children who lived in the chic parts of town.
It was the first of many ventures and for a kid his age, he was making just enough money to get himself all the extra stuff he wanted.
You’d be tempted to think a kid like that who had his heart set out for money-making at such a tender age would eventually become a truant and a perhaps a street urchin, but you couldn’t be more wrong in this case.
Karidas was a model student as he excelled in his studies and handled various leadership positions during his elementary and high school days. He didn’t let his business interests get in the way of his academic pursuits, he handled both with a skill that belied his years. And as a testament to his commitment to school work, he bagged a scholarship to study Actuarial Science at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 2013.
During his final years at Ekangala Comprehensive High School, Karidas co-founded a clothing company called Push Ismokol with Nkululeko “Bibi” Maseko; a friend of his who had a knack for clothing design. While the said friend had all sorts of concepts and designs for the clothes, Karidas was driving force that drove business sales.
The company was formally incorporated in 2011 and for several years, the duo has run a small factory in their community with as many as seven full-time employees, comprising women and youths. Push Ismokol has become popular as a local brand for designing and manufacturing all manner of casual wear ranging from caps, T-shirts, sweaters, and trousers. You could think of it as a textile company with its own fashion brand.
The company’s designs have even been featured on popular local TV shows while also drawing endorsements from well-known South African personalities. Apart from a becoming a local hit for casual wear – largely due to its symbol which is a quirkily-shaped wheelbarrow that is emblematic of the Ekangala area – the business is also known to design and manufacture wears for corporates.
But if you’re thinking that’s about it for the South African entrepreneur, then you might need to think again for he has gone on to establish a number of other successful ventures.
Freshman year at UCT came with a rush of fresh ideas and before long he was already collaborating on new projects. Karidas was only 18 when he teamed up with current business partner, Matthew Piper, on an initial venture.
Both student entrepreneurs were students of Finance who had interests in investing and had met through the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, for which they had both been selected. In a bid to impact financial literacy, they decided to share what they were learning in class and their own research.
It started out as a hobby. They launched a website where they posted videos and content and shared with students within and outside their school. And that exercise was to eventually give birth to MoneyTree Group; a media, publishing and marketing agency with a key focus on the youth and emerging markets/segments of the economy.
But the media business didn’t quite turn out the way they had envisaged and they soon had to take it apart to reassess the situation. For want of a more sustainable business which solves a bigger problem, the duo came upon another idea which eventually gave life to South Africa’s multiple award-winning agritech startup, Khula!
The Khula! app allows farmers to list their produce and tracks real-time inventory levels from farmers as well as carry out basic production forecasting. The platform connects producers to customers who are looking for locally-grown fresh produce. It also provides a cold chain for the delivery of fresh produce, while helping farmers access low-cost inputs through group buying.
Currently, Khula! claims to be the No.1 business app and agricultural solution in South Africa, and it is growing leaps and bounds – impacting thousands of farmers across the continent. And yet again, Karidas is right in the mix.
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