Editor’s interview with Claudia Makwela, mother to Ntando Makwela, a 15-year-old author, motivational speaker, and co-founder of Molo Africa, an initiative to strengthen youth involvement, tourism, and arts on the continent. She shares her experiences raising a young entrepreneur.
Sihle Magubane (SM): Can you tell us a bit about your son, Ntando and your family background?
Claudia Makwela (CM): Ntando is the firstborn of three sons, as such, I wanted to make sure that he had the best education possible. As first-time parents, we wanted to do everything according to the book, so we made sure we had to educate ourselves a lot about a whole range of things in order to be the best parents we could be to Ntando. We researched everything, and we taught him some soft skills such as time management which he embodies to this day. Also as our first child, he just intrigued us with the way he thinks, which was, in a way, a challenge for us, because he was growing at his own pace. I think that allowed him to develop independence quite early on.
SM: When did he start on his entrepreneurial journey?
CM: When Ntando was 10, he started writing a book about a fictional character who overcame all the odds to become a great netball player. Although the book was never published, I believe that was when the seed was planted. His intention through this book was to show how one can overcome any odds to become anyone they want to be.
Currently, he is working on three things: Writing a new book, and he’s working on Molo Africa, a company that he co-owns with Megan Werner. He also does motivational speaking, mostly to his peers.
SM: What did you feel when your son started going his own way?
CM: Ntando is very curious. So at the time he was doing a lot of research and reading a lot, his understanding of being action oriented. Everything happened so fast! But, he was doing well at school, which was important to both of us, so I allowed him to be. I believe that’s why he is so independent. He and his brothers would do mock radio shows at home, he was developed games, wrote poems and all other kinds of interesting things. Because I was so focused on my career and I felt that he was just a child, I saw this as him just having fun. Knowing what I know now, should have supported him to start sooner.
SM: What has been the biggest challenge on that journey?
CM: My biggest challenge was that I was never fully there, as a career woman, I was so focused on my own career, and I missed the opportunity to support him earlier. I also missed the opportunity to share these experiences with other parents, as a way of creating support for each other.
SM: What is your proudest moment?
CM: When Ntando was doing Grade 7, he became the Dux Scholar at his school. However, he had been planning this for so long. Even long before Grade 7, he always said he would work hard to achieve all he set out to. So, in 2015, when he was 13, he started the year by writing down all his goals for the year: One was to finish his book, The Dynamic Kid, one was to become the Dux Scholar. What makes me proudest is the fact that I was not fully there, but he was able to prove himself.
SM: What is the one big thing you remember doing to support Ntando?
CM: I sold all my shares to support him to publish his book. It may sound crazy, but I don’t regret it.
SM: What would be your advice to other parents of young entrepreneurs?
CM: I would say to parents: be present. Be there, give them all the support they need. If being an entrepreneur is what your child wants, it is the best gift you can give them. You instill and support something that will be there for the rest of your child’s life. One thing about children is that they are daring. As adults, we could learn a lot from them. We always want to have our ducks in a row, which is not necessarily their concern. Finally, get to know your child. Understand that you are dealing with an individual, who is perhaps different from you, but your role is to build that up. I believe that there is a diamond in every child, we just need to give them the space to realize it for themselves.
Claudia Makwela is Ntando Makwela’s mother. Ntando authored the book “The Dynamic Kid: 9 Keys to Unlock your Future” and is the co-founder of Molo Africa, which is set out on a journey from Cape Town in South Africa to Cairo in Egypt covering a number of different countries en route and on the return trip. Throughout the entire journey, they will meet other young leaders, motivating, sharing and learning from each other. Click here to learn more about them and support their journey!