The Dream Chaser: Naledi Mhlongo
How many of us find ourselves yearning for something bigger than our occupation? A deep desire to make an impact and build a legacy that will outlive us. I thought of the Dreamchaser series as a platform on my blog for young vibrant people who are completely like us in every way but have forged a path of self discovery and have started the journey of their legacy. Naledi Mhlongo is certainly one of those people. After being retrenched from her previous job in this tough economy, the 24 year old from Kimberly dug deep and used the situation as a source of liberation. She founded Neptech a company in the information technology field making waves in corporate South Africa. I was pretty blown away right from the onset and I had the pleasure of asking her a few questions that will certainly leave you feeling inspired too!
Who is Naledi Mhlongo? I was born and bred in a small city in the Northern Cape called Kimberley. I grew up in a middle class family where I was exposed to two extremes, poverty and wealth. It is those two extremes that have always pushed me to live a life that incorporates helping the society and building a legacy. I have always known that I would be an entrepreneur. When I was 10 years old my parents asked me what we all ask children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, to their shock I told them that I want to own a car manufacturing plant. Whether those were my exact words, all I knew growing up was that my dream was to be a job creator and express my deep need to become an influential business woman and a pioneer and I am extremely proud to say that I am a young black female entrepreneur in an industry that is still largely male dominated.
Naledi attended Monash South Africa and studied a Business Science Degree. "To be honest, I was as odds with my degree in the beginning and really wanted to pursue my dream of entrepreneurship. My parents didn’t support that, thank God. Now that I look back I am grateful that I completed my degree as it has assisted me in my daily decision making as an entrepreneur. I also plan to continue studying further. I am not currently in the field of what I studied, but the knowledge attained in my degree has really played a pivotal role in my business." Her biggest motivation to make a change in her life was driven by self employment a feeling so many of us experience everyday.
What do you believe makes you extraordinary? "Firstly I believe that most people fear their own dreams and capabilities. I am Christian and anything that is negative, I stay far away from, even my own insecurities and thoughts. I therefore do not believe in fear and I fight that negative voice in my head every day. I tell myself that I am beyond capable. I also believe that happiness is a decision you make. I choose happiness all day every day by following my gut and living with no regrets. Believing in yourself is an essential ingredient to success. Other ingredients include; humility, perseverance and listening to understand and not to respond"
Many of us are fearful of the unknown, what do you believe pushed you to take the leap to start on your own? I believe that we need to introspect and listen to what our hearts desire. Every human being needs to take a step back and listen to God or that inner voice. God has been bugging me to just trust in Him and through Him, trust in myself. I found myself in various situations both negative and positive and I believe that those situations were catalysts to my final decision to go all in. I did exactly that and within the few months of me making that decision, everything started to fall into place. When you break away from fear and follow your gut, interesting things start to happen. Try it.
If you could go back to yourself a year ago what would you tell yourself? I could write an entire series of books about what I would have told Naledi a year ago. I would tell her to always stand up for what she believes in, focus on hearts desires and have faith that everything that is meant for her will always be hers. I’d tell to let go of all the anxiety and fears that are holding her back and that life is simpler than she makes it out to be.
In the face of adversity what keeps Naledi going? The goal of NEPTECH, my company, is to reach about 1800 students in underprivileged areas and ensure that they have internet access, computers and computer skills through training, by the end of 2018. The impact that will have on 1800 students goes way beyond bottom line. Knowing that I am contributing to society in a way that could ultimately change the lives of the individuals within the society keeps me going. When people have access to resources, the quality of education improves and the dynamics of our society will change for the better.
You are the average of the 5 closest people around you. Who are those people and why?
- My parents, they inspire me and encourage me every day.
- My business partner who is extremely hardworking and works relentlessly towards his goals,
- My mentor who is such a humble and successful woman.
- All my friends, I don’t think they realise how inspiring, intelligent and absolutely amazing they are.
That’s definitely more than 5 people but these groups and individuals within these groups I have mentioned play a significant role in my life in ways they themselves do not understand.
Everyday as you work hard to make your dreams a reality, who you become is equally as important, so who is Naledi becoming? That is profound in itself. I am becoming better than the Naledi of the past. Past meaning 5 years ago, last year and even yesterday. I am growing every day and learning every day. I am becoming less fearful, I am becoming more confident. I am embracing my flaws and radiating my light everywhere I ago. I am one step closer to becoming the influential business woman I wanted to be when I was 10 years old.
What do you believe your legacy will be? Creating an Africa that is unimaginable to the naked eye through NEPTECH.