30 Minutes with Mr. Simon Mtsuki aka Simon 'The Big Mouth'
Mr. Simon Mtsuki, a B.Com Accounting graduate, cofounded the Emalahleni Young Leader Development program whilst still in University; he has worked on SAICA's Thuthuka Development Camp, served as Adjudicator for the Eskom Business Investment Competition, and co-authored text books published by Oxford University Press. Our Junior Editor, Buhlebenkosi Mkandla, sat down with Simon 'The Big Mouth', about his personal, career and business journey.
Who is Simon Mtsuki’ and what is he all about?
"I am a professional speaker, a businessman who is passionate about leadership and empowering young people".
Did you at the time of studying towards your B.Com Degree aspire to become CFO or Finance Professional?
"My original plan was to become a lawyer -an advocate. In my primary and high school years, I was known to have quite a big mouth, hence 'Simon The Big Mouth'. I was always prepared to stand up to my teachers and principals when I believed they were wrong or, had violated certain moral or even constitutional principles. It is part of the reason I got expelled from my first high school.
I was also quite involved in public speaking and debating, having won second place in my first ever speech competition. At Grade 11, I was part of the youth parliament in Mpumalanga and often invited to speak at various other schools' assemblies.
But something interesting happened to me in that same Grade 11. I was invited to a Thuthuka Development programme, the nation-building arm of the South African Institute of Chartered
Accountants (SAICA), where the Chartered Accountancy profession was made quite appealing to me!
Furthermore, my dad is an accountant by training -and he very much encouraged my participation in programmes like Thuthuka, and 'naturally', my mother actually also encouraged me to take Accounting.
Soon after starting university, I realized that I didn’t have the heart to continue, but my mother was determined to not have an uneducated son, and so I finished the degree. It was worth it!"
Interesting! Not too long ago you published a book “Road to Varsity”; what inspired this book?
"When I made the transition from my small city of Emalahleni to a Wits University which was in such a large metropolitan area like Johannesburg, it was a major change for me. I remember a friend of mine and I, as we were walking to lectures one day, discussing some of the challenges we were facing and how bearable it would've been if we had been better prepared; If we had someone inside varsity who could sit us down and give us a preparation manual for varsity. That's what inspired it".
You often say that you knew right from high school that you will become an entrepreneur; how did you prepare for this reality? "I come from a family of entrepreneurs and can say that I have grown up in an environment where being entrepreneurial and being a leader is a norm. I had my first job when I was around 12 years of age. I worked for my father's Chicken Licken. And so right from that age, I never had holidays. Holidays actually meant working either at my aunt's store, or at my father's, trying to earn money.
When I was not working for my family members, I worked as a waiter at restaurants. This taught me the value of customer service and connecting with the client".
Founding the Simon Mtsuki Brand, what were the building blocks?
"Well, I think, firstly, one thing that has always driven me is building a craft out of inspiring other people. I know that over the years, because of the rise of many so-called motivational speakers, we are starting to lose the craft of it, as many people are using celebrity status as an entry into another revenue stream. But I like the art of crafting a talk, an article, or a book that will be used to inspire the next person. Over the years, the building blocks have become more commercial, and that is more client specific, because we are looking to build a business".
What were some of the challenges you faced after moving to public speaking and wanting to do it on corporate platforms?
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