Mashudu Modau: Blazing a trail for small businesses

4th February 2019

Mashudu Modau, who works on Open by Yoco.

Mashudu Modau has been rapidly gaining a following since he started working with Yoco and launched his Mash Starts Up platform. We sat down with him to learn about his entrepreneurial journey and find out more about the man behind the buzz and what inspires and drives him.

A born entrepreneur

Mashudu was born in Soweto in the early 90s, and was raised by his mother and three aunts. Although he never enjoyed school, he nevertheless explored his passion for making a social impact, launching “Big Sister, Big Brother” – a project aimed at encouraging matric students to mentor grade eights. Even at this stage, he was asking himself: “Why do I have to just accept things as they are? What can I do to find a better solution?”

At university, he began to feel restless and boxed in by his studies so he launched Paper Share: an online platform where South African students could download past exam papers for free. This experience introduced him to the entrepreneurship ecosystem, where he got to engage with incubators and accelerators to test and fine-tune his concepts. Although massively enriching, he found that existing workshops did not address the variety of needs of vastly different new businesses. He knew there had to be a better way.

Making a difference at Yoco

In 2017 he began working with Yoco, his first formal job. For him, it was important that his work did not make him feel trapped or squeezed to fit into someone else’s ideals. When asked why he felt Yoco is different, he lights up.

“The biggest thing for me is purpose over profit. Yoco helps other people to improve themselves and their lives. Working here gives me a sense of accomplishing and building on my purpose, which is to empower, educate, encourage and enable people to learn, build and grow. So, working with Yoco was a very natural choice.

“I feel that at Yoco we are helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to start thinking of themselves as more than just small. They can suddenly see how much more they could be. Using Yoco’s app and the business portal shifts something for people: they see that they can build something real and lasting, with an impact on their life and the lives of others. Their contribution matters, and it starts with thinking differently about their business.”

Shortly after joining the team, Mashudu became heavily involved in Yoco Meets: a new type of networking event where small groups of entrepreneurs get together to discuss their real-world challenges and brainstorm possible solutions. The goal is to provide a resource for often isolated business starters.

“It has been an incredible experience: people are genuinely affected by the work that we do. We are not just giving someone a card machine, but also providing a broader platform where people can get support to start, run or grow their business with the best knowledge and tools. I know I am having an impact on people’s ability to empower themselves. Yoco starts that journey with a card machine, but actually provides entrepreneurial infrastructure in a real way.”

Creating an online platform for entrepreneurs

Meanwhile, also in early 2017, Mash’s online platform for entrepreneurs was starting to draw considerable media attention. By July Mashudu had recorded his first ever podcast episode.

South Africans need and deserve higher value content being put out there, with a bigger impact [than traditional forms of media] that engages people at a higher level. The big thing for me is having genuine conversations with genuine people: I don't do interviews that are marketing, you need to be sincerely invested in teaching people and telling the real story, not the fairytale. Thankfully, the conversations I have had on my show have been surprisingly open and honest and I am very pleased with how much people are willing to give.

The emphasis on his platforms is on creating useful resources and being brutally transparent, Mashudu adds, “The reason why I exist online is to break down the prosperity gospel of entrepreneurship: not everyone is going to make it. That is just the harsh reality that you will either have to find out for yourself, through repeated failure, or come to grips with and start tackling now.”

Finding his audience

Currently, he is launching a larger podcast network, Lutcha Africa, which will introduce new topics to his lineup: Pioneers vs Pretenders, Mental Health Awareness, Health and Nutrition, Pop Culture, and Current Affairs. With over 14 000 followers on social media already his influence in the field has grown remarkably, but he maintains that he has never had to look for business opportunities: “I make noise about who I am and how much I like to serve. People can see that I am genuine, and the right people find me.”

For Mashudu, none of his online efforts have been about accumulating popularity, “I am so grateful for the one thousand people who listened [to the podcast so far]. They are invested in learning at a deeper level than just narrative. Those one thousand people count more than a million other-media views, to me. People who are willing to engage with the truth are the people who can make it, and greater access to those individuals is how I can have a better impact. People who don’t just want to be inspired, they want to be educated, those are the people I want to connect with. The rest is noise.”

His conviction and perseverance are a large part of his success, but he attributes his recent trajectory to the power of living his life according to his purpose – and cutting out the noise.

Marijke Makomba

Marijke is a freelance writer and subeditor. She has a BCom Economics and Law degree from UCT, and a diploma in Digital Content and Copywriting from Red and Yellow. Once upon a time she was a chef-entrepreneur, but since selling her restaurant, she has been pursuing her lifetime fascination with storytelling. She loves to play her cello, read books, and eat tiramisu.