Facing the Challenges
From where he is sitting today it is hard to imagine this enthusiastic young man having ever had any difficulties or challenges in life. And Ivan is the first to realise just how privileged he has been. But it hasn’t always been plain sailing, and as he observes, everyone has a story. His parents got divorced when he was very young, and he grew up enduring a strained relationship with an abusive stepfather.Because his biological father was an inspiring influence in his life, it was particularly heartbreaking when his father passed away very suddenly just days before Ivan got married.
The couple moved to Paarl and Ivan struggled for about two years to find employment. “I believe it was God’s way of teaching me to rely 100% on him. I was becoming proud of my qualifications and achievements with a dangerous amount of arrogance,” he recalls. “It was a difficult time in my life, but it was a character building period and it also prepared me for my true calling; namely to help springboard community entrepreneurs who don’t have the connections, education or know how.”
We Shall Overcome
So, Ivan started Labit partly out of desperation and put a lot of time and effort in to try and make it work. The idea behind Labit was to be an incubator for new businesses and to help them move over to the accelerator and grow the business even more. “It’s not just about profit though. That simply isn’t enough. There has to be a give-back to the community, a social responsibility aspect to the business. We want to create jobs, uplift the community through successful individuals and help to inspire others to also start their own unique enterprises.”
He recalls how he nearly gave up on the whole idea when things just didn’t seem to go the way he had hoped. “Nothing was working out, we were in debt, no money was coming in and the idea seemed to be dead in the water. I went away for a couple of days to try and decide if I should quit and start somewhere else, when God very clearly and in his unique way, told me not to give up. I decided to give it another shot and two weeks later everything changed.” Labit received funding, new projects, lots of interest and their flagship entrepreneur, Cheslin Grobler’s Fleet Coffee started growing in leaps and bounds.
“We’re not a non-profit organization. We do believe that the businesses need to make a profit and the only way for us to stay committed and involved is to have a share in it. The owner always has a majority share and the last say, but we stay with him every step of the way because we have a vested interest,” Ivan explains.
At the End of the Day
If Ivan can offer any advice, it is what he was taught; that you should ‘never cry poverty’. “This doesn’t have anything to do with how much money you have or don’t have. It comes down to your attitude. It’s about not hiding behind your circumstances, or making excuses, but taking responsibility and rising above it. As Paul said in the book of Philippians, ‘I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.’ (NIV 4:12)”