Interview With South African Businessman And CEO Of Tau Matla, Prince Nyembe! Tau Matla is a supply chain management and general trading company in the mining industry. The supply chain process is a complex one but it makes it simple. Tau Matla works hand in hand with the customers and suppliers to make sure everyone is guided from start to finish. Its commitment is to ensure that the objectives are met and completed on time.
We recently had an interview with South African Businessman and CEO of Tau Matla to talk about his entrepreneurial journey, inspiration behind Tau Matla, his biggest lessons and what legacy he would like to leave on earth. Check out the Prince Nyembe interview below.
How would you coin Prince Nyembe’s entrepreneurial journey?
I am a person who was humbled by life. I have been through a lot throughout my life that changed and shaped me to who I am today. I lost my father who was the bread winner and who did everything for me. I thought everything would work out but I was never prepared for the hard times that I had faced. When I lost my father my world crashed. I was out with a close friend for my birthday on the 31st of December and I had the best time but the next day changed me forever, it was the 1st of January 2005 and I received the call that my father had passed. I was stressed hurt and confused I had no idea what was happening. I asked so many questions, I was told he was poisoned along with his business partners and close friends; they all ate at a wedding which then led to their passing. My father died a painful death. My aunt told me he took three days of excruciating pain filled with stomach cramps and hot flushes. Just hearing that killed me inside and as a result of that I was never prepared for what was to come. I had to look after myself. I had nothing, I ended up living alone in our Bryanston home, a home my father had built from the ground up and now it was empty, cold and lifeless with me in it. I had grown up living such a happy life but it all came to an end, the banks took assets and cars, my sister and I couldn’t afford to keep any of it .The school which I had attended could not take me in any more, I could no longer afford to be there .I never went back to school, I just vanished, nobody knew where I was. I did not think I would survive but with the support of my sister, my close friends and the Magwa family hope was restored as I was loved and supported. I still needed a plan and needed it quickly. I had to work and survive; all my friends still had their fathers as for me I had lost my hero. It was painful to see, my friends could not understand why I needed to work. I guess they were still privileged.
In 2006 Professor Thami Mzawi gave me my first big break, he hired me at Mafube Publishing, the company had legendary publications like Enterprise magazine the first black business magazine including The black business directory and the SAA Sauwboina. I learnt a lot from working for him and I got to meet and see some of South Africa’s early black millionaires. The experience was priceless and I obtained a lot of my skills from Mafube. I started in sales and ended up becoming the circulation manager but I wanted more. I was there for a long time but unfortunately Mafube closed down and I had to move to another business and company. In 2009 I left and started at RMG results media group. I worked on the Gary Player Golfer’s Guide, a publication owned and founded by Gary Player. It was a new world for me as I got to meet successful business people and professional golfers. It was truly a blessing. I looked after three publications the Wits Business Journal, the PGA Golfers Guide and the International Design Magazine. It was fun, exciting and educational for me but I needed change and my golf was terrible, I didn’t enjoy it maybe because I was impatient. Fast forward two years, I found myself working for Highbury Safika which was a company that had just been bought over by Saki Macozoma, I worked on exclusive publications like SA Cricket and the Southern Sun Equinox. It was all exciting for a while but I began to lose interest. I wanted more because I had spent years learning so much and I had built a solid client base; I then decided to resign and start my own business. I formed Check Mate Media, my love for chess had just kicked in even though I was not really good at it, I loved the idea of chess especially the rules you could apply them to everyday life; that is how the name was created. My company Check Mate Media’s growth was truly surreal. I had clients such as DC shoes, Sony, X Box, Beats by Dre, Conjure Cognac, Monster Energy, Skull Candy and Ace of Spades known as Armand De Brignac which at that time was not owned by Jay Z. When I was working on the brand nobody knew what it was, people thought I was crazy trying to sell them a gold bottle of champagne that nobody knew anything about. It was really a great time for me. I was tasked with building these brands and introducing them to the urban market and that meant creating and attending a lot of events with another close business partner and close friend of mine, Leslie Mampe known as Da- Les. We grew up together in Bryanston; he helped me pioneer a lot of these brands. He had a huge social following so it was easy for me and him to plug some of the brands into our lifestyle. Fast forward 2013 I stared working with great family called the Demart family they have a company called Blue Sky Brands. The company has more than twenty brands; it was a family run business full of intelligent and smart people. I loved working with them; my first project was Cruz Vodka. We had just introduced it to SA fashion week as their main sponsor which we did a lot of brand development .The brand gained a lot of traction and success which led us to focus on more brands like Honor Cognac which was in competition with Hennessey, Boulevard Champagne, Pravda vodka etc. I spent a lot of my time working on the brands and I must say it was some of my best ever years. It felt good working on new bold brands that had massive potential. At that time we also had a family business called Auto Salon which today has grown to become Fix Auto. I was tasked with marketing the business. It was a 360 degree turn compared to what I was doing. It was a dent repair centre where we focussed on insurance companies and car brands namely Ferrari, BMW, Range Rover, Kia, Bentley SA, Ford and many others. At this moment in my life was special as I was working with people I loved, a true family business where everybody played a valuable role. We had a lot of celebrities coming in and using our services and today the business has grown. We employ more people. We are part of a global franchise and it has been amazing to learn from an all-black women owned business in a complicated and hard male dominated industry. In 2015 I gave birth to a company called Beam Group (Beam the mind), it dominated the South African music industry for years as a force to be reckoned with, and something never to be seen again. Our first financial year we made R15 Million and our last financial quarter the company had grossed R26 Million and the rest is history.
What inspired the name Tau Matla?
Tau Matla was inspired by wanting to carry on a legacy in which was triggered by a path my father had taken. He discussed all his plans with me before he had passed. He was close to my uncle who had found success in mining and he was excited for the new era in his life. Throughout out my life I did not really think I would find myself in mining. Tau Matla was destiny and a legacy project. When I started the company I had no kids and my life was not stable. I knew I wanted a family and I knew that when I do start my own mining business it would be something special. After trading coal and exporting commodities to the AU with 2KP Procurements, a company owned by Jona Pillay the CEO of Jindal Africa and Logan Shaw who is the founder of Saxon Energy they were my business partners. I had gained a lot of experience and I wanted to form something for myself. I told myself if I ever have kids I would name them Tau and Matla not knowing at the time that I would actually be blessed with two boys. It was unbelievable Matla was born first on the 15th of June 2019 and Tau was born on the 15th of May 2021. It was all premeditated and foreordained.
Your company sites exploration of natural resources and futuristic mining as focus areas, why are these thematics crucial to your organisation?
I think it’s important to understand that South Africa is very rich in resources and yet instead of us teaching our youth about what lays beneath the earth and how it can change their lives forever, we programme them to leave the rural areas in search of big congested city jobs so they leave behind Trillions worth of vast amount resources that they could benefit from, this really got me into understanding that where we were going was wrong. The system tells our people to study for a minimum wage job far from home why? Instead of teaching them to mine the very same resources god gave them .I expanded and focused my business on exploration so I could help develop black communities. It’s a lot of hard work and it takes time and patience. We start the process and we identify the land and bring in a team of experts from our business, Geologists and Engineers and they start the process from green field to a mining level but we are still far from achieving our goals. We find the contractors and the off takers, we have a legal team that does all the due diligence and scrutinises the agreement’s, we help unlock the entire value chain, this is crucial to our people because it brings change and empowerment. It gives them a sense of ownership.
Our people need to understand they do not need to leave their land especially when they have resources. Those resources can help develop a community for years to come, they can build schools, hospitals and life style centres instead of overseas mines coming in pledging to do it for them while exploiting them at the same time. It is all about understanding and empowering them. We are exporting most of our commodities and the financial gain is not in the hands of our people. Our people need to own the land mine or farm the commodity then sell to the buyer but the buyer can not own the land or the commodity, he has to buy it from the people .The problem we face is businesses overseas owning our land and resources they literally export to themselves while our people remain poor. This is the main reason Africa remains under developed .In terms of futuristic mining we have been spending a lot of our time finding future commodities, we have created a division for rare precious commodities such as copper ,fluorspar ,Vanadium ,Lithium ,cobalt and Hydrogen. Ten years from now the demand of these commodities will exceed supply.
You are currently vested in mining and commodities what inspired the transition from entertainment?
Self-passion and finding myself, it was crucial and it played a key role in my life, I needed something that didn’t depend on anyone. I needed a self-sustaining business that I could grow and pass down to my kids and their kids. I needed to build wealth. I think I left the South African entertainment industry on a high, I introduced ideas and strategies that changed a lot of people lives and inspired others to follow suit. I felt I had reached my sealing and the sky was not the limit. I think we had a great run but things change new trends come, new music and new ideas, it all eventually catches up and if you are in the space you simply have no choice but to evolve and if you don’t, it falls apart. Most importantly I think the passing of my mother played a huge role. I had a sick mother and I spent years neglecting her, my love for her was just paying bills and calling on the phone. I was not spending any time with her and that killed me. I could not do it. I could not go back to the same place that led me to abandon my mother and so I focused on mining, I needed a fresh start. There is a famous mining quote I love ‘Don’t die without mining the gold in your mind.’
You are widely known in the entertainment industry for your work with Reebok, Cruz Vodka, AKA and more, what has been some of your biggest milestones in this sector?
I think creating ownership, musicians aren’t taught to start a business and give a service that has nothing to with their talent but rather their influence, musicians are kept dependent on labels and that relationship can be extorted for years. I was able to showcase the importance of owning your brand. Merging corporate South Africa with the music industry to create legacy deals and projects, giving kids who came from disadvantaged areas the opportunity to work on big brands, building a brand with a team of young creatives who worked every day to create new trends, leading and teaching them corporate values and structures, designing a Reebok shoe, creating a flavour for a global Vodka brand, owning our own signature shows and concerts, designing our own merchandise and being an executive producer of some of the best music the world has ever heard that was pure and from the heart. That was a priceless and an unforgettable experience for me. I could speak about the blue print for years, it’s in my DNA.
What were some of your hardest lessons?
Learning that your vision is never always what others see. I spent years wanting a vision that was perfect and ideal for me but was not necessarily where others wanted to be and in the end I had to find out the hard way but it was a learning curve and I had to pay my school fees. Secondly “Friends “ knowing the difference between real friends and social friends. Most people don’t know the difference. Having friends that bring comfort and friends that bring growth. If we are not financially growing then what is the point? There’s more to life than drinks and laughter. My nephew calls it evolving and that’s where we need to be .
Reflecting on your entrepreneurial journey, what could you have done differently?
In the past I wish I had treated business as business and not personal. I loved everyone I was working with from a young age and I thought that was the way to move in business but I was wrong you don’t move with love you have to be selfish in a strange way. The love is for your family because it is unconditional. You can’t love all your clients; you simply cannot because that marriage can be broken at any time. A lot of my clients ended up divorcing me and taking my ideas with them, ideas I still see till this day and if I was harder then I think things would have been different.
What drives you?
My family and my kids are all that I live for. It’s a legacy project, I have to give them a better life than me and that keeps me up all night and day, 24/7 365 trying to secure a future for them. That is what drives me.
How does Prince Nyembe keep a sane mind?
Well I read a lot thanks to my brother in law and I take long walks alone, sometimes with my dogs to keep my mind refreshed and active. I talk to myself and I speak my plans and dreams into existence, it is therapeutic. Learning what other business entrepreneurs are doing is key but self-building is more crucial to me. You have to dig deep; you have to find something in you.
You have quite a diverse business portfolio, what other businesses are you invested in?
I have a number of small businesses. Blac Business Africa that Holds a number of subsidiaries( Blac Digital ,Blac Media ,Blac Hire ), I’m currently building a crypto exchange platform called Pudi and I’m working closely with coders from India and Russia . I have a pharmaceutical company, Global Medicare; we focus on import and export. I work with a great team of qualified industry experts. I also have an educational business that has taken off which will probably be my biggest achievement because it is not about the money but rather empowering children and the youth. With the rise of the new creator economy in parallel with the fourth industrial revolution, we need to all realise the urgency of how education needs to now meet the new demands of global change. Africa is ripe with natural resources, creative people and the willingness to learn, however we seem to still lack basic access to quality education. Thought Africa was founded with the vision to shape a new world by giving all of Africa’s children access to the greatest Thought Leaders. Our mission is to introduce new ways of learning for our youth that help them innovate sustainable thinking and tech skills. I teamed up with one of the best millennials of our time that can change the future and I’m excited I really am especially for my own kids.
How has Covid affected your businesses?
Covid has had a huge impact on us .The lock down prevented us from trading but at the same time it also gave way for our local medical business. The commodity space dropped to an all time low. We couldn’t export we couldn’t trade locally it was a mess. I realised that we simply cannot live a sustainable life with one form of income. Covid taught me to respect money and use it wisely. Most importantly we need to collaborate as people the more we work together the more we can sustain the economy.
What interventions would you recommend to government in these trying times?
Vaccinate! Vaccinate! Vaccinate! Vaccinated countries are back to normal. We need to vaccinate our people so everything can go back to some form of normality. The government needs to speed up the process and get vaccines to our people. The economy needs to urgently recover.
Locally who are Prince Nyembe’s biggest inspirations?
Simon Mashabela, Lucia Nyembe, Andisa Ntsubane, Lebo Magwa, Hugo Cuter, King Toni Mphephu Ramabulana, Mike Teke, Sipho Nkhosi, Selim Kaymak, Derick Abrahams and Mzi Khumalo . These people have all helped shape my life in some way or form.
How would you like Prince Nyembe to be remembered?
That I made a difference. That I contributed somehow to the good of this world. That my sense of awareness in all the things I do sets an example for others to consider for themselves and that my many mistakes are forgiven, seen as simple missteps in life or as something to laugh at in retrospect. Rather than some memories, if a sense of trust in the basic goodness of life and the possibility of individual and collective transformation would have been conveyed to some people close to me, especially to my children, this would really be something.