Ex-gangster cleans up act

10 April 2017 - 08:01 By PHILANI NOMBEMBE
Khayelitsha informal settlement, Cape Town. File photo
Khayelitsha informal settlement, Cape Town. File photo
Image: Supplied

A few years ago people would run for their lives when they saw Khululekani Nyobole knocking on their doors.

Today the former gangster has cleaned up his act - literally. He has developed a range of eco-friendly, inexpensive cleaning products for the poor.

The 26-year-old bruiser-turned-businessman launched his premium Nurturer range, which includes hand soaps, body washes and detergents, last festive season.

Nyobole's past was not as fragrant as his products. But he managed to escape from the clutches of crime and drugs in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, and went on to graduate with a BA degree from the University of the Western Cape.

Nyobole got an opportunity to sharpen his entrepreneurial skills at the New Ventures Studio business incubator.

"You grow up thinking all that matters is to become the top dog," said Nyobole. "I did all sorts of drugs and I mean all sorts - cocaine, heroin, tik, Mandrax, ecstasy. You name them, I have done them."

The cleaning products concept struck him during an environmental ethics class. He set out to provide people with "premium and affordable natural products".

"I was born and raised in a township and I started questioning why people in low-income communities do not have the option to buy affordable natural products that are healthy for both humans and nature," he said.

Established natural product manufacturers helped him find the right mix of cost-effective natural raw materials that can be manufactured on a large scale.

Nyobole now dreams of building his own laboratory. His business model is door-to-door sales and Nyobole believes it will create opportunities for the unemployed.

He is grateful for the support and investment he got from New Ventures Studio.

"I feel privileged that they hold 20% equity in my business because if it hadn't been for them, I wouldn't be where I am today."

Matt Fisher, the manager of the incubator, said the range has done well so far.

"I don't have the exact figures. We bought the products from a supplier in bulk, I could say we have sold around 20% of that so far," said Fisher.