The boldness Sakhile Maseko displayed in establishing a luxury watch retailer as a teenager would have been impressive enough on its own, but what really set him apart was his determination to keep moving forward when he experienced a major setback.
The fledgeling entrepreneur started the business while he was a student pursuing a degree at Wits University but once his bursary fell through, he was forced to change course. “Instead of feeling sad, I felt excited,” he says. “I thought, right now, I can do whatever I choose to do. I can follow my calling.” That experience marked the birth of Aumax.
Maseko poured R3 700 of his own money into starting the business, importing luxury watches and using taxis to meet clients at their homes across Johannesburg. Aumax’s unique selling point is a ‘try before you buy’ concept that allows clients to place their order online, get delivery direct to their home within 24 hours and only pay once they’re satisfied with the product.
“I wanted to start an online store but I realised that people were cautious about being conned or struggling to get a refund if they weren’t happy,” explains Maseko. “So, we created an experience for the client that would allow them to try our products before purchase in the comfort of their own homes.”
I wanted to start an online store but I realised that people were cautious about being conned or struggling to get a refund if they weren’t happy.
Maseko wasn’t intimated by the established brands in the market because he knew in his bones that he had struck upon a business proposition that was unique and compelling. His faith paid off: within a year Aumax was generating monthly revenue of R300 000.
At that point, Maseko brought in an investment growth partner in the form of Silvertree Internet Holdings, a firm which has backed some of the fastest growing SA start-ups. Within another year Aumax had nearly doubled its revenue figures.
Now, 21-year-old Maseko employs 11 people in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town and has his sights set on growing Aumax into an international brand: “We’re evolving from watch retailer to luxury brand, and our aim is to become one of the biggest in Africa.”
Maseko is especially grateful for the mentorship he has received through Silvertree, from people such as Manuel Koser and Peter Allerstorfer, the co-founders of Zando. He advises other aspiring entrepreneurs to seek the same: “Don’t try and do it alone. There are a lot of successful entrepreneurs who can assist you to avoid the common traps. It’s also good to just have somebody around because not many people understand entrepreneurship from the inside out so building a business can be a lonely journey.”