Uneducated, but passion and hard work pay off

Ben Masuku was only 13 years old when he dropped out of school. His ageing father, who had had children from three different households, could no longer afford the school fees.

Let’s make some noise - Ben in the studio.
Let’s make some noise – Ben in the studio.

Having ended his academic career so early, the Tsholotsho-born Masuku could easily have thought this sad twist of events would put a permanent damper on his future.

But fast-forward the clock to 23 years later, and Masuku is rubbing shoulders with the rich in a business he built from scratch.

Still not as educated as he would have loved to be, Masuku is proudly the Director of Bennan Agencies, a construction company he started here seven years ago. He specialises in interior décor and his is one of the few black-owned such businesses in the whole of South Africa.

But that is just part of the two lives he leads – the other being as an accomplished gospel musician.

“I got to where I am mainly because I chose to do things I love most and can do best,” he said in recent interview.

Masuku cut his first teeth in the construction business in a government programme specifically for those who had just finished school. He was involved in building state-funded houses in the resettlement areas, until he became a self-employed brick-layer. He migrated to South Africa in 1996.

“It was already difficult to get employment in Zimbabwe if you were not educated, so I decided to seek better opportunities here,” he said.

That decision paid off, as a focused Masuku was employed in a construction company within three days of arriving.

“My early days in the industry were spent doing manual labour. The building techniques here differ from those in Zimbabwe, so I could not just walk into it,” he added.

He did that for three years, before he ventured into painting. He later trained in art technique at Blue Orange Artwork – an academy owned by his employer Heidi Albert.

In 2005, Masuku started his own paint technique company, which has grown in leaps and bounds.

His first pay cheque in the business was R60 000 from Albert, who became his first client.

“This was the first time I had so much money at once and I used it to build the business.”

He got a lucrative contract from a New Zealand firm to service five shops around South Africa. New contracts are still coming in and his business keeps growing.

Already a respected gospel musician with three solo albums to his name, Masuku is now planning to venture into fast-food outlets in his homeland.

In South Africa, he wants to do the same, while also building a music brand that will showcase the talent of artists from his Matabeleland region.

“I am doing two things that I really love and that is why I am managing. The passion, the hard work and the focus are the key success factors,” saidMasuku.

“Once you understand that the company’s assets are not yours and stay away from spending the capital and profits recklessly, you will be able to remain afloat and grow big.

“What kills most of us is that we fight for employment, which is very hard to come by, instead of starting something of our own and striving to provide employment where we can. I do feel pity for the fellow exiles, but we are not the only ones suffering. We have to start improving not only our own lives, but those of others too.”

Post published in: Africa News

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