Starting out as a travelling crockery salesman – but whose market was limited by the Group Areas Act – Herman Mashaba saw a gap and created Black Like Me, the only black haircare company in the country.
Launched on Valentine’s Day in 1985 in Ga-Rankuwa, the brand played its own small role in the country’s revolution – the name resonating with the Black Consciousness movement – and inspired thousands of people to open their own salons.
In three decades, Mashaba has steered it into a multinational corporation, expanding throughout Africa and exporting to Europe and beyond.
He never let anything get him down; when his factory was torched by arsonists in 1993, he was back in business two weeks later.
Mashaba started out making the products at night and selling them by day; now he’s one of Africa’s most celebrated entrepreneurs, with investments in around 20 companies; he’s an under-theradar patron of development programmes and chairman of the Free Market Foundation.
A hard-core capitalist, he says SA’s high unemployment rate keeps him awake at night, and that affirmative action, labour laws and government grants aren’t doing us any favours … thought-provoking words from one of SA’s few black billionaires who did not ‘make it’ with the blessing of BEE.
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