My name is Danie Jacobs and I am the founder of YE Young Entrepreneurs. Yes, I know that (according to the “book”) I am supposed to write this bio in the third person, but why? I despise conformity, so bear with me.
I started my first business at the age of 5, selling my water paint depictions of life. Yeah right! They were awful drawings of trees, skewed houses, deformed stick people, with the traditional version of clouds and a smiling sun. I sold them for 10 cents each (in 1978) and although the quality was sub-standard, no-one could resist a cute and friendly little boy. I made ‘millions’ and was the richest 5 year old in Jeffrey’s Bay. Or, so I thought anyhow.
My first real obstacle in life came at the end of Sub B (now Grade 2) when they took play away. Yes, can you believe it? No more drawing pictures, Lego, dough, or anything remotely associated with stimulating my creativity and very active right brain. My world came tumbling down (very dramatic for illustrative purposes only) …., and I ended up being moulded into a square, although I was born a triangle (or a star in my Mom’s words).
After school I followed the traditional path and went to University (that is what all squares did), but the decision was not driven by ambition, but rather a mechanism to postpone my (then still) compulsory military service and of course to stay close to my girl from school. I ended up with a Master’s Degree in Medical Sociology; a Master’s Degree in Education, and; a Master’s Degree in Business Administration. Why three Master’s Degree you may ask ….. Well, in the quest to find purpose in my life I chose the path of least resistance. Instead of facing the ‘real world’ as a square, I decided to rather stay with the University, keep studying and use my ample free time to dream of being a triangle ….
Throughout the years there were glimpses of my “stardom”. I started a clothing business, founded ILSC (Pty) Ltd, a consulting firm specialising in business model positioning, change enablement and employee engagement, and I was also the founder and Director of the Centre for Business Dynamics, self-sustaining commercial unit of the Business School at the University of the Free State. Through ILSC and the Centre for Business Dynamics I saw the world, developed & customised programmes & solution for the private and public sectors and experienced different versions (cultures) of the world of work.
It was in the ten years with the Business School that things would forever change. Despite the fact the institution was invaded by aliens* and, as mentioned, my inability to conform, I was confronted with more serious realities that I simply couldn’t ignore. I can keep you busy on this point for chapters, but let me highlight the major one. The world of work is changing to such an extent that unemployed graduates are the norm and not the exception. Yes, school and universities are ill preparing our kids for the world of work & business and nothing is going to change in this regard. We need to capacitate and equip our kids with the necessary skills and competencies to become the authors of their own destiny.
Now, why then you may ask did it take me so many years to get to this point? The answer is simple …. my own kids. It was with shock and disbelief that I realised that, if I didn’t step in, the energy, enthusiasm and creativity of my three triangles (stars) would be drained by a system that only recognised squares. I couldn’t allow this to happen ….
All of this gave birth to YE Young Entrepreneurs!
*Aliens in this context refer to rectangle autocrats that killed all entrepreneurial initiative and drove most of the triangles (stars) away.