Losing his money put DJ Sbu on the road to financial success, reports Wynona Latham
Not many South African personalities have gained the level of success that DJ Sbu, whose real name is Sbusiso Leope, has attained. He was named among the top 200 young South Africans by Mail and Guardian in 2013 and was one of Forbes magazine 13 young Africans to watch in 2013. Yet this South African celebrity has chosen to use his wealth and fame to teach young South Africans financial literacy.
Born in Tembisa, east of Johannesburg, Leope began his career in radio when he volunteered for local community radio station, Tembisa Info Radio. Around this time he became involved in campus radio.
His big break happened when he entered an YFM talent competition. “That was my foot in the door. I was only runner up but that experience allowed me to get the graveyard shift at YFM,” he recalled. He worked his way up the ranks until he had his own show “Y-lens” and also worked for Metro FM as well Ukhozi FM in subsequent years. Leope even began a record label “TS Records” with TK Nciza that promoted artists such as Zahara and Nhlanhla Nciza.
Yet, for Leope the formation of his education foundation, the Sbusiso Leope Foundation (SLEF), is his greatest achievement. “If you had asked me five years ago, I would have said some of the accolades I have received and for which I am truly grateful to receive. But, there is something about establishing something like this and seeing that you are making a difference,” said Leope. SLEF was founded in 2005 and aims to use education to uplift the lives of poor disadvantaged South African youth.
Leope places a lot of emphasis on teaching black youth about financial literacy. “I think that culture plays a big role. There are people who have been raised around certain financial values and practices that I think are missing in some black communities. This education is especially important in terms of the youth. We should work to make it part of our culture and to make maths and accounting more practical,” he said.
Despite his many successes, Leope does not deny that that the road to success has not been a smooth one. “My greatest lesson about money came when I lost it. When you keep getting money you think it will never end and you keep spending because of that. Then you hit a dry spell and you are forced to learn. I started hanging around people who could help me and I learnt from them. I think the best thing was when I got out of debt,” said Leope.
Leope believes South Africans need financial education: “I think people are afraid of finance. They are scared because they have lost money and a lot of banks are accused of creating debt. But I think that we are just not educated in how our finances should work for us and how we can create wealth from nothing,” he said.
Now he holds financial literacy seminars across South Africa, which have been highly successful. Last year, he released his Leadership 2020 seminar book which has sold over 15 000 copies.
Chris and Suzanne Styles, founders of Makes You Think and contributing authors to Leadership 2020, attribute Leope’s success to his unconventional methods. “The Leadership 2020 book is not being sold in CNA or Exclusive Books as others would do – no, it is being sold on the street, at taxi ranks, in shebeens. It’s reaching real people with real challenges and giving them real hope!!”
* This article was first published in Saturday Star on 22 February 2014. It is part of a series produced to support the Heartlines Values & Money campaign to encourage South Africans to think about how they earn, spend, save, borrow and give away their money.