Matching a career path with a degree is not as simple as it seems, but hard work and application ultimately paid off for 26-year-old entrepreneur and Bachelor of Commerce (General) student Yanelisa Jokweni who, alongside her studies, runs a successful 100% black-owned construction company with a footprint in three provinces: KwaZulu-Natal, North West and the Eastern Cape.
Growing up in rural Umzimkhulu on the South Coast, Jokweni observed first-hand the challenges that her community and family faced when they tried to build their dream homes.
‘My family was building a four-bedroom house and I remember finding it very odd that we changed builders four times before the house was completed. The challenges my family experienced with the builders were fascinating to me and I had to know more. This is how my research into the construction industry started,’ explained Jokweni.
She made it her mission to identify gaps in the building industry and addressed these gaps in the form of her own construction company offering professional, reliable and affordable services.
‘My research revealed that builders lack project management and financial management skills. This presented me with an opportunity: I started a skills transfer programme for my builders, which enables the company to offer a service package that includes building, plumbing, electrical wiring, plastering, painting, installation of built-ins and ceilings, flooring, fencing, paving and gates. We are a one-stop shop for all of our clients’ needs when it comes to building their dream homes,’ said Jokweni.
‘This produced a building service that is quicker and simpler, and I was able to offer my clients affordable payment plans. People always doubt my capabilities because I’m young and female in a male-dominated industry; that’s why I let my work speak for me as I pride myself in getting the job done right,’ she said.
Before the onset of her entrepreneurial journey, Jokweni was an aspiring accountant who joined UKZN in 2013 with hopes of making that dream a reality. She enrolled in the BCom 4 accounting programme. While she did well during her first and second year, she couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that she was not on the right academic path. It was after joining Enactus and becoming part of a community of students, academic and business leaders that Jokweni realised she needed a qualification to enhance her business acumen, and switched from a BCom 4 to a BCom General, majoring in finance and economics.
Between juggling her studies, working piece jobs to generate an income and starting her business, Jokweni was crumbling under the pressure. The passing of her mother during her exams in 2014 also dealt a heavy blow and Jokweni took a two-year break from her studies to take care of her family, and regroup.
‘My mother’s passing was tough as it meant I had to take care of my siblings and I couldn’t manage it with my academics,’ said Jokweni.
A dream deferred is not a dream denied and Jokweni’s academic journey was by no means over. In 2018, she returned to her studies with newfound determination and a growing business. Fast-forward to 2020: Jokweni is in the final year of her studies and the managing director of Sakhiwesihle QY Construction‘This time around I knew what I was doing. I decided to change from finance to marketing and economics because my business experience taught me the importance of marketing. To cut a long story short, my current degree has everything to do with my career path. It is helping me to theoretically understand reality as I practice what I learn in class in my business, and I’m definitely going to pursue postgraduate studies. ‘My academic journey at UKZN has been quite long and it is a story that, for years, I wasn’t proud to share. But today, I am really proud to say it was necessary and has made me who I am.’ To learn more about Sakhiwesihle QY Construction, click here or visit their facebook page @sakhiwesihle