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Young Minds Conversations ft. Sinenhlanhla Mthembu, CEO of Passcara & Partners

Sinenhlanhla “Sne” Mthembu is a truly inspiring woman. As the founder and director of Passcara & Partners, based in Kwa-Zulu Natal, she is quite possibly one of the youngest women to ever start a law firm in South Africa. If that wasn’t enough, you’ll also find her creating content at any opportunity she can - as this YouTube queen has over 40,000 subscribers tuning in for lifestyle and beauty vlogs on her channel! Sinenhlanhla is an individual who is both shaping the future of South Africa, and inspiring others to do the same.

When starting her firm, she outlines the direction that she decided to take it in. “When I was still employed, I did a lot of criminal work,” she says. “It just wasn't sitting well with me. So when I started my own practice, I decided that I'm not going to go the criminal route. Instead, we focus on civil matters - divorces, drafting of contracts, deceased estates, and so on.”

Running a law firm, as well as having released over 70 YouTube blogs - one of which has over 140,000 views - Sinenhlanhla doesn’t see herself as an influencer. Rather, she prefers the title of digital content creator, saying, “I share lifestyle content and I love communicating with my followers and subscribers. I enjoy getting a feel of what they expect from me, and engage with them.” With both of these commitments, she shares her favourite hacks for managing her time. “I'm optimistic,” she says. “But my profession pays my bills, and naturally I’ll gravitate to focusing most of my energy on it. But I also love vlogging, I love content creation. It’s literally something that I can wake up and do every day, without a doubt. What helps me the most is that I jot everything down. Literally, every night before I go to bed, I need to know what I'm doing - both on the legal side, and on my content page. I do work with brands now, and brands have deadlines. They want you to produce certain content at a certain time. I've then got my clients in the legal department that I also need to get the files for, go to court and so on. So I need to be prepared the night before, outlining what I'm going to be doing legally, and what I'm going to be doing social media-wise for the coming day.”

Such organisational skills were honed in the variety of side hustles which sustained Sinenhlanhla in the time leading up to starting Passcara & Partners ranging from a makeup company to an events company. “To be honest, I was fumbling through the whole thing - I didn't know what I was doing!” she says frankly. “But I think it helps to start young, because you generally make a lot of mistakes as an entrepreneur, and then you're going to learn from those mistakes.”

“One thing I learned was patience,” Sinenhlanhla continues. “You need a lot of patience in business. It's not going to happen tomorrow, it's not going to happen next week - whatever you want is not going to happen immediately - which is something that I struggled with a lot. I think most of us want to make the money, and we see “Oh! Sne is doing this - let me also do this!” without doing the proper research to find out what it is that you can and cannot do. And then there is discipline. I think my events company was the one that taught me a lot of discipline. Working with a lot of people teaches you discipline, and it forces you to be patient.

So, indirectly, the mistakes that I made landed me where I am. I'm still making mistakes, but it’s just that I’ve learned from my past ones, and I’m not making the same ones that I used to make.”

Common mistakes that Sinenhlanhla has seen young entrepreneurs make involve the need for instant gratification, and instantly making it big. She shares, “There's nothing wrong with starting small. And there’s nothing wrong with dreaming big - I'm not saying you shouldn't dream big. But what I’ve seen is that so often we want to start big from the get-go. I feel like we set unrealistic goals for ourselves, which leads us to disappointing ourselves.”

“For instance, when I started with Passcara and Partners, I started during COVID. I already had this fancy office that I was renting out, but then with COVID happening, I realised that I wasn’t going to the office anymore or utilising the space but I was still paying the rent. It got to the point where I realised that if I rented out a one-room office, it was still going to be fine. I could’ve started small, and I wouldn’t have wasted so much money on office space.” Now Sinenhlanhla works mostly from home, and has a dedicated consultancy space which she rents - and for now that suits the company’s needs. “ I feel like I'm in a position that I am comfortable. Everybody's gravitating towards working from home, but I feel like the type of business that I am in will, at some point, require me to go back to an office full time. But I will do that at my own pace and my own discretion - when it makes sense for me basically.”

On the topic of female entrepreneurship in South Africa, Sinenhlanhla shares that, “Even currently, there’s not a lot of us trying to do it - but it's better than what it was years ago, especially in the position that I'm in. It's still a struggle. We are still looked down upon slightly. It's very rare to find a female-owned firm. But now, people like us are showing the people that follow us that if I can do it, you can definitely do it. It gives others that insight. We engage with people, and we tell them how hard it is, and how worth it is in the end. It gives others that push and that drive to say that I also want to do that. And it’s limited to reaching just those people who follow - I remember sitting in an ENCA interview and having the interviewer tell me ‘You know, I’m in my 40’s and I am being inspired by someone who is 25.’ So it does not necessarily mean that you're inspiring and pushing young people - there are also certain people, especially older people who at a particular time felt that they could not do it. They now see younger people doing it, and remember the dream that they had in the back of their minds, and they’ll dust it off and put it into realisation.  I think it's a matter of people realizing that if these young women entrepreneurs are doing it, then definitely I can also do it.”

Her advice to young entrepreneurs is simple: “I always say just go for it! And if you don't take the risk, you never know. You’re basically never going to know if you don’t take the risk, and you have nothing to lose if you do take the risk. It's about time that you take your plans that you have in your mind and put them into realization. If you don't, somebody who's already got that idea is going to use it before you do and then you’re going to feel like you shot yourself in the foot. So you might as well just start. Something to consider is to do the research. I always, always, speak about research. You can have all the money, you can literally have all the  funds to start a business, but if you haven't done the research, it's not going to work out.”

Furthermore, making use of what one already has is invaluable - even if it is a following on social media. “I've created a community with my followers, especially on Instagram I engage very well with them. They trust me and my judgement on certain things. And in return, I can capitalize on that - because at the end of the day I think everybody's out to make the money. If you can use your community. And then, indirectly capitalize that or use that similar technique in business, it's definitely going to help.”

Being able to take calculated risks, learning from your mistakes and keeping your goals in mind are all invaluable skills to becoming a successful entrepreneur. The USB-ED Young Minds Programme is tailored to help you to create your own career opportunities, with guided life direction, while equipping you with the necessary business skills required to become highly successful. To find out more about this programme, click here.

Watch the full interview with Sinenlanhla Mthembu here.

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