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No handouts for this entrepreneur

5 Dec 2019

Jappie Thulo

Story by Nonhlanhla Bakasa

An entrepreneur based in Tembisa has decided to do whatever it takes to gain financial independence.

Jappie Thulo (28) runs three types of businesses. “I am in transportation, the first being an Uber driver, the second one is a scholar shuttle and thirdly transporting people [for long distance trips]. I am also in network marketing and, lastly, I am in real estate as a property practitioner,” he says.

Thulo was born with phocomelia, a congenital condition in which one is born with limbs that are underdeveloped or absent. In his case it is arms. He got his driving licence in 2012, and started his transportation company in 2017.

“I was tired of living from hand to mouth, so starting my own business was the way and the only thing I can leave behind as a legacy to my family,” says Thulo, adding that he was driven by a desire to be self-employed and to write his own cheques.

The journey hasn’t been all smooth, Thulo says. “When you start a business you will get rejections, but persistence got me through it all.”

In order to manage all three businesses he says he juggles as they are all flexible and demanding at different times of the day.

Thulo says Uber didn’t treat him any differently from the company’s other drivers when he was registering. “All they need is a driver with a public driver’s permit and for the driver to pass the drivers evaluation.”

When asked about how his clients react when they first see him and realise his impairment, Thulo says, “[As soon as they realise their driver has no hands] it raises concerns [regarding their safety], but when we get to the destination they confess they never thought I would drive them safe and clean.”

A client of Thulo’s from Tembisa, Sphiwe Mdluli (27), says she has been very impressed with his service. “He drove us from Johannesburg to Durban. His driving was very good, too. We had a pleasant drive to Durban and back. I was so happy with his services that I referred another friend of mine to work with him regarding his property business.”

Sizwe Sithole (30), who is a friend of Thulo’s from primary school days, and has watched him grow in entrepreneurship, says, “[Thulo] is one of the few persons with disabilities who is not ashamed of how he looks or how he was born. He makes it all work out, and I look up to him for that.

“He used to occasionally drink alcohol, but as soon as he started his transportation business he made the decision to stop consuming alcohol in total for the sake of the business. [Thulo] said people already have a negative mindset around persons with disabilities driving and he did not want to make it worse by consuming alcohol too.”

Thulo says entrepreneurship has been good to him and that he is looking forward to more growth. preneurship has been good to him and that he is looking forward to more growth.

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