SUCCESSFUL and sometimes controversial businessman Mkhuseli Khusta Jack compares being an entrepreneur to a game of rugby. “You need to fall forward and not go backward – that is life. Not all of us can be a David Campese but we are all players on the field and need to work hard, be brave and take risks,” Jack said.
The former anti-apartheid activist said that when he left politics in 1990, he had three “disasters” before making it in the business world.
1990 was also the year he married his wife, Karen, and started studying towards his BA Honours in economics and Developmental Studies at the University of Sussex, which he completed in 1993.
He worked in the marketing department at Volkswagen Group of South Africa in Uitenhage, “to orientate myself to the corporate world”, but after a few years ventured out into the business world as an entrepreneur.
In what he calls the “first disaster”, Jack tried to branch out into the business of manufacturing disposable nappies, but was stopped by a corporate giant, which claimed he infringed patency rights.
“I tried another business which was building low cost housing but the government’s dream of building one million houses, and my hopes of building RDP homes, also turned into another disaster because of the administration which was not up to standard. The delays in payments meant I was sinking in the process.”
In a third failed attempt, Jack started a brick company in 1998, but due to the interest rates and state of the economy at the time, the building industry came to a virtual standstill.
“I soldiered on through the difficult times and paid back each and every cent I owed.
“I never ran away from my responsibilities and paid back my first ever overdraft of R250000.”
Jack finally got his big break in 1999 in Ilinge Development Services, where he is still the managing director. The company provides telecommunication services and was initially contracted to Telkom but is now also branching out into the private industry.
It was only once this company became profitable, which Jack refers to as getting “my ducks in a row”, that he took on other investments such as property, stocks and other companies.
Having grown up in Humansdorp, Jack says he counts his blessings. “It was the best feeling when I was able to buy a house in St Francis Bay, where long ago I worked as a gardener,” Jack said.
Karen is not involved in the business but helped raise their children, Thembaloxolo, 19, and Cayla-Rose, 16, and manages their band, Modern Tribe.