24 February 2021, Johannesburg, South Africa. MARTIJN Slager is passionate about making a difference in people’s lives. A marketer and salesperson in...
Henley MBA alumnus turns “light bulb” moment into successful side hustle
For auditor turned renewable energy expert Lunga Mkhwanazi – the Henley international MBA was just the spark he needed to set his sideline rooftop solar business, Solar Eclipse, “spreading like wildfire”.
I’m a Kaizer Chiefs fan, I’m not ashamed to say – I know they haven’t been doing very well. Internationally I’m a Man United fan. In fact, I enjoy watching most sport. I’ve fallen in love with rugby, particularly since the 2019 World Cup. It’s a big nation builder, and I just loved watching all the games in the 2023 World Cup. So, I guess it’s no surprise that it was one evening while watching sport that I had my light bulb moment: I had everything I needed to start a successful side hustle in the renewable energy space.
It was during my MBA that the entrepreneurial bug bit me. I’d never sold a bar of soap in my life, not even a sweet or anything. My intention when I embarked on the MBA journey was not to start a business, but to progress in the corporate world. I started my career as an auditor at KPMG, where I completed my articles and have worked for several big firms: Philips Electronics, First Rand’s corporate investment banking division, Rand Merchant Bank, and Standard Bank. I saw the MBA as a steppingstone into more executive roles. But then I realised there was an entrepreneurial blueprint in me that I had to explore.
My business, Solar Eclipse is in the renewable energy space, but in some ways I fell into this quite by accident. I was looking for a solar system after I’d finished building my house, as regular loadshedding was in full swing. I called a few service providers for quotes. Something told me to study the quotes, go and research all the products and learn everything I could about it. I used YouTube to educate myself about inverters, batteries and solar panels. I realised I didn’t need to use the service providers because I was able to go and buy my own products once I understood how they worked. I then approached an electrician who was willing to attempt the installation even though he’d never done it before – and voila, he did it!
Suddenly I was the only person in my neighbourhood with lights on, everyone else was in the dark. Neighbours came to ask how I had electricity when they couldn’t hear the noise of a generator. They all began to express interest and asked how much it would cost. And that’s how my business started, it just spread like wildfire, from a DIY job into a fully-fledged business.
I think the strategy module on the MBA was the one I found most helpful as we learnt that when you start a business, you need to define your unique selling point, your USP. For me, it was to be a low-cost provider. My strategy was to offer low-cost solutions and the type of inverters and batteries had to be good quality and cost effective. I wanted to be able to offer an affordable alternative that was reliable and still did the job.
Because I’m an auditor, the finance side was ingrained in me, but I learned a lot more about finance with the MBA. I took digital marketing as one of my electives and that helped me to streamline the business, doing marketing all online: social media sites, developing my own flyers, literally end-to-end, it’s a one man show. On the personal development side – understanding self and knowing your strengths and weaknesses – I also harnessed that on the MBA. The variety of modules available on the Henley international MBA is what makes it a phenomenal programme, in my opinion.
When I applied to do the MBA, I’d just started a family – I had a little boy – so what really captured me was the family-friendliness of the Henley MBA. I was accepted at three different schools including Henley. I had a colleague who had just finished the Henley MBA, so I did a lot of research and sat with former Henley students and asked them: ‘How is it? Is it flexible enough for me to still do my job and have a family?’ There’s this perception about the MBA being a cause of divorce so I wanted the assurance that I would have the support to manage my studies without neglecting my family. The Henley ratings also appealed to me, in terms of being triple and quadruple accredited. What’s more, I wanted an international qualification – that was a major drawcard for me. One of the highlights of my MBA journey was going to Reading in the UK to graduate.
My biggest inspiration while growing up was my mom and uncle. They are both educated and they inspired me to always do well in my academics. They were my drive to pursue a university qualification with Henley. At the present moment, my wife and two boys are my inspiration. I try my best to keep them happy and provide for them.
Another key moment that has shaped my career was when I got an opportunity to work on projects abroad and I was still employed at Philips Electronics. I got to learn so much about different cultures across the world and this has shaped my character as well.
At home, I’m inspired by DJ Black Coffee and he is one of my favourite musicians. He started from humble beginnings and has transcended and conquered the World. He is a global symbol now and an ambassador for our country.