Entrepreneurship is in Sello Mahlangu’s blood. He started selling boiled sweets to neighbours at the age of 12, when he realised that he had to create opportunities to rise above his circumstances. As the child of a single mother who had to help support his two younger sisters, Sello had to be creative and tenacious to ‘make-ends-meet’. He joined a local funeral parlour to wash bodies and later drive the hearse. This is where Sello developed a passion for the industry, and a deep appreciation of the enormous significance of a dignified burial in the lives of ordinary South Africans.
Sello put himself through school and started working for the government, but kept dreaming of starting his own burial services company. He decided to take the plunge by leaving his job to start Royal Funerals from a small room at the back of an old shopping centre with a R12,800 windfall he got in the form of a tax rebate. Sello’s business went from strength-to-strength, but really took off when GroFin invested R9m in his business in 2012.
Before GroFin’s intervention, Royal Funerals had 10 branches in Gauteng and surrounding areas and also a factory building to manufacture tombstones since 2008. However, demand had grown exponentially from 2008 to 2012, exceeding the existing factory’s capacity.
With GroFin’s intervention, Royal Funerals started a new factory (‘Royal Memorials’) in expanded premises, allowing it to successfully meet large tombstone orders from the region’s leading funeral services, Dove.
GroFin’s business support provided a huge thrust to the business, guiding Sello to develop and implement financial reporting systems to better measure business performance. Cash flow forecast and monitoring to support adequate cash flow in off-peak holiday season (December and January) was put in place, allowing Sello to manage his cash flows better. This culminated in Sello launching a funeral parlour in Kwandebele in Oct 2014 with improved cash flows.
Sello’s business has generated a huge impact on his community. Today, he is an influential business man who directly employs 67 people. He empowers his staff through regular training and has recently promoted six people to a managerial level, after they passed a managerial skills development course offered by a reputable training provider. In addition,
Royal Funerals has created opportunities for many service providers in the area and it is a source of inspiration for those wanting to improve their circumstances.
Sello is often consulted on business and community development matters, and he has a regular column in the local newspaper that gives advice to aspiring entrepreneurs. He believes in ‘giving something back’ to the community and sponsors numerous community events and his church’s choir. From time-to-time, he also conducts burials for families who are too poor to lay their loved ones to rest.
GroFin’s investment and support has changed Sello’s life.
“Apart from sending both my sisters to university and providing stable employment to my mother and other family members, GroFin’s growth thrust to my business has created a legacy that will allow my children the freedom to choose their own destiny,” concludes Sello.