AKHONA MAHLATI is the chair of Bright Sparks Training Consultants, principal strategist and director for Ewe Sana Marketing and Communications, executive director of BusinessFit, a member of the Durban Entrepreneurs Club Leadership Committee, and he chairs the management committee of a school.
He holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Marketing and Business Management from the University of KwaZulu-Natal as well as a Strategic Marketing Certificate awarded by the University of Cape Town's Graduate School of Business.
Mahlati's working life started with a lot of small parttime jobs, but his professional career commenced when he obtained a position at British American Tobacco as a marketing management trainee in Stellenbosch in the early 2000s.
Mahlati then moved a few years later and worked for Capitec Bank as their brand manager. During this time, the bank was moved from a micro-lending 'hangover', to being perceived as a competitive retail bank. Post this position, Mahlati moved to Johannesburg where he worked at the Standard Bank Group in the Diners Club International franchise.
During the last year of his time at Diners Club, Mahlati started a business with a partner, which prompted him to drop everything in Johannesburg and move down to Durban to give the business the much-needed focus required. Mahlati reflected that the day he handed in his resignation letter and left Johannesburg to start experiencing being self-employed as a full-time business operator was a highlight of his professional career. "Needless to say, three years later the business was no longer in operation. It's after this failed business that I started lecturing part-time and started my marketing and communications business," said Mahlati.
However, he commented that even after failing, his strengths have always been in believing in himself and his own abilities, being resilient and being disciplined. He says, "My children and my need to live and enjoy my dreams drive me to give of my best. I'm inspired by many events and episodes, which teach me life's great lessons."
"I've faced many challenges; from discrimination to non-payments by clients to financial lows to breaking relationships and disbanding partnerships." He added that these challenges, and more so overcoming them, have made him a better and stronger person.
"I also believe that it's in overcoming our challenges that we're able to know how strong we really are and this strength enables us to reach greater heights in our lives. It's by defeating the demons on a particular level that you're able to get to the next level."
"I'm a driving visionary. When I'm in charge of a project, I offer the team long-term vision and have the ability to inspire and communicate that vision to others. I'm insightful and perceptive, and I genuinely care about the development of others. I want to influence people positively not only in South Africa, but in other countries on our beautiful continent and all over the world. I want to see young people starting and growing sustainable businesses which dramatically reduce our unemployment rate and our crime rates. Moreover, I want to see African people pushing the boundaries of development and innovation."
Mahlati added that his 'drive' is natural and not contrived. "Business and life in general is about adding value to other people. We must always try to keep things simple and not to over complicate them. You can only do good business with good people. We need to try our best to remove ourselves from negative associations and unbecoming practices. The path to success is never straight and narrow. It's more of a journey of selfdiscovery which eventually plants you in the path of your purpose. Once you've found your purpose, try your best to live it, enjoy it and to monetise it."
He reflected that he has worked with and has relationships with some of the best minds in the country. However, these are not well-known people, but ordinary people who make things happen without seeking attention. "I've also been fortunate enough to share rooms and speaking stages with some of the biggest business leaders in the world," said Mahlati.
During his spare time Mahlati loves listening to music, chilling with good quality friends and enjoying meat around a braai. He sees himself as an amateur wine and champagne collector so he loves drinking good wine. "I also enjoy a few glasses of single malt whisky coupled with a cigar on lazy weekends. I'm not much of a TV person, but I from time to time enjoy watching programmes related to travel and properties."