Kgomotso Mautloa dropped out of college. The nerdy former web-design student says it was not laziness, but the entrepreneurial spirit, that drove him to do it.
“You can’t teach someone to be creative, you can’t say this is how you become creative, it comes from the heart. A lot of guys who are designers are very passionate about their work because it comes from the heart. Every time you design something, you put a piece of your heart in it,” says Mautloa.
It all started with a chat with college mate, Ashley Moetlo, in 2006. Both from Alexandra, a township in northern Johannesburg, the pair saw a niche market for web design in the growing South African music industry. They couldn’t wait another year to qualify. That year, they quit and started a company named Green Robot Design.
“The first client was a rap group from Daveyton, east of Johannesburg. They were about nine guys, really passionate about their stuff. They paid us for the first project and we bought a printer with the money. It was an awesome feeling,” says Mautloa.
But things did not turn out well, after a year, Moetlo left the company to return to university. Moetlo was the strategist, aligning and planning; Mautloa was the designer.
It was tough for a while and he had to work extra hard, Mautlao says.
“I started juggling both our roles so that the work could still be done. To some extent, that made me much stronger and more resourceful,” he says.
Mautloa took a day job with another company for a year and a half, while building his own business from home.
“I used to work tirelessly during the day and at home I worked on deadlines. It was not easy because I had to try and maintain a certain standard for myself… It’s always difficult to run your own business while working for someone else,” he says.
Mautloa says it was difficult but he made sure he delivered. After a year and a half, things started taking off for Mautloa, he had enough money to revive his own business, Green Robot Design. He then quit his job.
By 2009, Mautloa says more business was coming in. Today, Mautloa is the creative director in his company with seven people working for him, providing services in animation, brand activation, application development, print and online design as well as strategic planning, exploring different mediums of communication.
“For me, being an entrepreneur means being a thinker and a solutions provider. It also means to be a role player in the community, but more importantly, building the economy. We all have a role to play in building sustainable communities and companies that will change South Africa,” says Mautloa.
“We have been able to avoid complaints and we are efficient. That is one constant feedback that we have from our clients,” he says.
Mautloa says Green Robot Design helps small businesses develop their brands. He has also worked with South Africa’s big artists, like popular radio and ‘house’ jock, Mo Flava, and multi award-winning rapper, Khuli Chana.
“With the start-up people, our team can easily exchange views, they are open to our ideas and strategies, and they are hungry for success,” says Mautloa.
For his hard work and determination, Mautloa was nominated for the 2015 Vodacom Rising Star Award. He says there are opportunities to grow elsewhere. His next mission is to branch out on the continent.
“South Africa has an influx of many designers, there are a lot of us who want to get a piece of the big pie and I guess there is enough to go around. But that’s not where our focus is. Let’s look elsewhere, there are other countries that need our services,” says Mautloa.
So watch out Africa, Green Robot Design is coming.