WITBANK, SA – Ms. Thuli Mashaba is a serial entrepreneur, public speaker and a woman of faith. With over 10 years of experience in construction and civil engineering sector, Mashaba has proven that women can work in any industry.
Her success speaks for itself as the Executive Director of Hula U Gude, but that is not why people love and respect Thuli all over social media and in person. People are inspired by her because she is relatable and her journey is traceable.
Exclusive Interview with Thuli Mashaba
Q: You have a huge following on social media and all your posts are inspiring, why is that?
A: It wasn’t always like that, I am a fun loving person and a bit crazy. Whatever I am thinking at that moment, I just say. But I started noticing that people took me seriously and believe everything I said. That’s when I needed to make a big adjustment and take on this huge responsibility; to share things that matter and can build people. I thank God for His Grace because sometimes we look at ourselves and where we come from, and not think that others will pay attention to what we’re saying.
Q: Where do you find your inspiration?
A: I’m a direct product of having being found by God’s grace. I was not born into Christianity and nobody told me about Jesus or talked me into going to church. For me, it was just a voice that I followed and every time, it led to the right outcome. I didn’t know then that it was the Holy Spirit; I still trust and follow this voice. Because I have seen the results in my life that have shocked people around me.
Q: Would you say you always knew you’d be so successful?
A: Firstly, I used to be an ordinary girl in the township and enjoyed partying. When I started changing my life, because of the voice I was following inside me, the Holy Spirit; people thought I wouldn’t make it. Some even took bets against me, so sure that I wouldn’t become anything.
Getting into business was an escape from poverty, I needed to make extra income. So when I decided to listen to the inner guidance, sold everything I owned, bought a small car and moved back home; everyone thought it was over for me. It was disturbing but I was confident in the voice that spoke inside of me, I didn’t care what people were saying.
Q: How do you cope with challenges in life and business?
A: Going back to when I started my business journey, it was very difficult because I had no support. Starting a business alone is stressful to say the least. Add to that going at it alone with people telling you everyday that you will fail can really crush your spirit.
My help was and still is the faith I have in Jesus and the voice of the Holy Spirit. There was a point in my life when things were so bad that I had suicidal thoughts and the word of God was my drug. From thereon until now and in the future, I relay on implementing what the Bible says to me.
Q: Were you always in business or employed before starting?
A: I started my business in 2004 while I was a receptionist. The year after I got another job as a Personal Assistant to an Executive at the National Legislator in Mpumalanga Province. I got another job 5 months after that but the business bug was really biting at the time. My studies were happening at the same time but my business was growing and required more of me Eventually I had to choose between school, work and business. I chose business.
Q: Was construction and civil engineering your first choice going into business or did you stumble upon it?
A: I have always loved construction so it was a no-brainer for me, as much as I didn’t study it. I am not even a civil engineer although most people, even on site, think so. But I have qualified teams and my job is to run the business. And, I am hands-on with my projects, because I love learning and that’s irrespective of age or anything. I am an everyday scholar.
Q: Were you not scared going into this industry knowing that it so male dominated and would you encourage other women to go into construction and civil engineering?
A: It never crossed my mind that I am going into a “man’s world” when I started. It’s only when things were unfolding that I realized I had to prove myself and work twice as hard. Being a black-woman owned company, in such a space, I needed to really prove that I can get the job done for my clients to take me seriously. Its even worse when I go to power stations and mines because there is no time to look polished and believable. I go there in jeans and construction gear, looking smaller in stature, so it’s harder to look believable. Which is why my work has always had to speak for itself.
Every industry has it’s headaches but we are able to stomach them because of the passion. There is nothing scary about this industry so I encourage women to still go into it. Our government is in favor of us, so get into the industry and get people to support you. You could even employ graduates, there are so many unemployed people so there are opportunities. Even though the environment is not friendly for women, it’s dusty, hot and not nice. But if I can do it, so can you. Go for it.
Q: People love your voice and look up to you, was being a Speaker part of your plan?
A: No ways, I used to be a very shy person who only spoke when spoken to, so it was definitely not in my plans. It started when I was in Los Angeles attending a business conference. On one of the evenings I had a dream and saw myself speaking on a big stage. I woke up so shocked and didn’t believe it; because I hadn’t prayed for it and I really wasn’t prepared to be in the spotlight. But it happened again the following night and that’s when I knew it was God talking to me.
It was that voice again inside me saying, you can do this. So I made a promise to God and said, if you provide the platform for me to speak, I will show up. Before I got back to South Africa I had invitations from Metro Fm radio and people inviting me to their events. I don’t consider myself a public speaker, I am a soul winner. Every time I am invited to speak, I ask God to speak through me. I’ve never wanted to have to convince people about Jesus. My prayer has always been that my life is a reflection of what God can do. My main mission whenever I speak, is to win souls, that people are moved to change their lives, because God is speaking through me.
Q: You are also very charitable, why is that?
A: I give because I know poverty, to starve and not even have face wash or sanitary towels. There was a time when I would pray my periods away because I didn’t have the resources. I know how it feels to not have. That’s why it breaks my heart when people make fun of others wearing torn clothes or old shoes on social media. I went through my studies wearing the same T-shirt and jeans everyday for six months, I’d wash it every evening. Most things don’t make me cry but poverty brings me to tears, so that’s why I give. I am very passionate about giving, even when I am shopping and see an elderly person doing her groceries, I offer to pay. Because our grannies are left to raise kids on their own, our generation dies young.
Q: What would you say to someone who’s really struggling right now in their life?
A: First of all, that’s a very difficult space to be in, lets acknowledge that it’s a difficult pit to get out of. However, it’s a conscious decision to get out of it. YOU have to decide to believe in yourself or even try this Jesus thing. The only thing that matters is your identity, do you know who you are? Do you know the identity your creator defines you by? There is nobody who describes a product like its manufacturer and ours is God. So understand what God says about you.
For instance, take a woman who stays in an abusive relationship, if you see yourself as nothing, he will treat you like that. If you put him on a pedestal, he will treat you like you are beneath him. We need to teach our men by how we carry ourselves and you do so by understanding your identity. Are you giving yourself the correct definition?
So get to know what God says about you, it will empower you and strengthen your confidence. That way, you will be able to take on anything, absolutely anything that comes your way. Let’s go back to your creator’s manual so you can know who you truly are and change your situation around.
In closing, Thuli Mashaba defines the ultimate key to achieving what you want, is by knowing your identity. She says God has empowered us and we need to be more unapologetic about it. Most of the time women are smarter than men but they shy away because they are afraid of challenges. Some would rather just get a rich man to submit to in order to speedup their way to success. That’s not your true power. There are people who tolerate abuse just because they don’t think they could survive on their own. We can do better than that as women.