Nelisiwe Masango – Financial Markets Analyst, CEO of Ubuntu Invest and one of Entrepreneur Magazine’s Top 50 Black African Women Entrepreneurs to Watch – shares a personal story about the influence of Chris Gardner and the film “The Pursuit of Happyness”, which inspired her to win her own financial freedom by learning about the stock market.
“The 2006 film ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’, starring Will and Jaden Smith, is based on a true story of a man named Chris Gardner. Down on his luck and suffering from financial hardship, Gardner and his young son find themselves homeless. Gardner doesn’t give up hope and lands an internship at a prestigious stock brokerage firm. But the pursuit of his dream of a better life (or ‘happyness’) is an arduous and challenging journey. In the end, however, through sheer will and dedication, Gardner transcends his circumstances and overcomes insurmountable obstacles to win the success he always knew he deserved.
Life imitating art
“Although the film was exceptionally inspiring, the key message that I took from it was not a sentimental one. It was practical. It made me aware that the stock market was a thing. I had no idea it existed until that point and the concept excited me.
“I was hungry for success and prosperity, fresh out of high school and looking for a way to take on the world. After I saw the film, I was energised and excited. I started doing intense research on the stock market – and the rest was history. Through my learning, I fell in love with the industry.
“The film was inspiring primarily because, if Chris Gardener could rise above his circumstances this way, why couldn't I? That said, even at 19, my expectations were realistic. I had no false ideas that I could achieve his level of success in two years or three years, but I set a reasonable goal and hit the ground running.
“At the time, I was studying business and hoping to be an entrepreneur. So, my research was a side project and it dawned on me that this was not something that was covered in the curriculum. Genuine financial literacy is essential to equip young people to start off strong and my research empowered me to get something lucrative going on the side, over and above my job. But at that point, I would never have dreamed it could be a career. How could I know? It wasn’t something we were taught. It was something that I learned by happy accident.
“Nobody ever imagined I’d ultimately end up in finance; medicine perhaps – that’s what I was passionate about outside of entrepreneurship, but not finance. No one was more surprised than I was when I became passionate and obsessed with the industry.
The gift of knowledge
“One thing I learned quite quickly along my journey was that there is a dire need for more financial literacy. When the finance bug bit me, a family friend heard about it and asked me to teach her. She told me that I had a unique and simple way of explaining it. So, the entrepreneur in me said, ‘Why not explain it to other people at a fee?’ To be credible, though, I needed experience, a good reputation, clientele and resources. Consequently, I put my brokerage dream on temporary hold start a skills development FinTech institution. Thus, Bear Run Investments was born.
“Bear Run was created to ensure that ordinary people have the tools and knowhow to gain financial freedom. It gives people access to educational programmes and workshops so they can trade and invest in themselves. I believe every member of the community should have a chance to gain financial confidence and empower themselves so that finances are the least of their worries.
“I am proud to say that we have had many success stories through Bear Run and the best part is that the knowledge has been paid forward. 80% of the people I trained passed the mentorship on to their families and many quit their jobs to become entrepreneurs in fields they were truly passionate about. They walked away from their nine-to-fives and became financially independent and stable.
“Women still have a tougher time getting themselves out there because of ingrained attitudes in society. Chances are that Chris Gardener’s story would have played out differently if he was a woman, particularly in that era. But the truth is, if you are motivated enough, anyone can overcome their situation and succeed. Women just need to be more determined and hard-working. At the end of the day, women can still achieve the same things men can, if not more. It's about seizing your moments and persevering when you come across obstacles.
Patience is a virtue
“It’s important to realise that there isno easy way out. There really is no ‘get rich quick’ scheme out there. The more educated people are about stocks and trading, the less likely they are to be taken in by scam artists. Trading is an everyday thing, and you have to actively stay on top of news and movements. Even if you are not trading today, you still need to know what's happening in the market. If you missed two weeks, before you place your next trade, you must catch up on everything that has been going on. It’s a moving target. If you get off the train, you must run and jump back on constantly to get where you need to go. The train doesn’t stop to pick you up.
Keep your eye on the prize
“Trading technology may have advanced in leaps and bounds but there is no easy way around it. Algorithms and copy trading systems simplify it, but nothing holds a candle to deep knowledge and understanding. Technology lets us down. People let us down. You need to rely on yourself. Once you acquire your skills, no one can take them from you. People make the mistake of referring to trading as passive income. It's really anything but passive. You actually have to work for it. It's time we invent a phrase other than ‘passive income’ for trading.
“Looking back at my journey, I can tell you that there is no perfect trajectory for anyone. But when you come to terms with the fact that you will experience disappointments and hardship, you pull yourself up by the bootstraps and push through.
There is always a bigger mountain to climb, but if I wasn’t prepared to climb it, I wouldn’t be here. Its also important to choose who you will take with you on your journey. Source the right talent and support to hold you up. Nobody is perfect, but you can learn to work with people and work around certain situations. Things don't always go according to plan, but the good news is, entrepreneurship is absolutely worth it. And if the plan doesn't work, just alter the plan – not the goal.