Rocklands entrepreneur achieves success

Neo Malefane, founder of Leano Solutions, a recent finalist at the 14th Annual National Business Awards for the Top Young Executive of the Year Award. PHOTO: SEITHATI SEMENOKANE

Neo Malefane spent his childhood playing soccer in the streets of Rocklands, Mangaung. He went on to represent the Free State province when he was eleven, playing the sport throughout his school career at Brebner Primary School and Grey College Secondary. He went to the University of Johannesburg (UJ) by means of a soccer bursary, but during his second year his true calling for business beckoned him to start his own company.
Although a lover of sports, business has always run in Malefane’s blood. He used to work the till at his parents’ butchery, Killarney, which used to be in Rocklands. Malefane says that during his second year, he became distracted with the idea of starting his own company. “I got injured a few times, I got frustrated with sport. I would then spend the time I was injured trying to grow my business.”
Being a student meant working with very limited resources, but it paid off when he received his first big break. Malefane successfully pitched his one-man marketing agency as a fully operational company. Pretending to be an employee at his company instead of a young business owner worked in his favour and led to him signing his first contract with the University of Johannesburg (UJ), which was looking to rebrand the university at the time. He used his profits from this contract to buy his first car and much-needed resources for his company, which was now well on its way to success.
Malefane says his love for business comes from his parents, who still run businesses in Bloemfontein. When things got tough, he could always rely on his parents’ support. And, unlike parents who push their children to get a degree and then work a normal nine to five job, his parents have always supported and encouraged him to do what makes him happy. With his company gaining success, Malefane says he almost quit university; he is thankful for his sister pushing him to finish his diploma in marketing, even though at the time his entire focus was on growing his marketing agency and making it a success.
Malefane says when he started his business, he had no responsibilities or pressure and this allowed him to flourish. “A lot of people struggle when they start their business after resigning from their jobs and there’s always pressure. There are kids, family, bonds, there’s too much to lose.”
While in China during 2009, Malefane was looking to diversify his company, which was doing very well. He met someone who gave him his first opportunity to get into construction. He developed a liking for infrastructure while working as a subcontractor and when his company changed direction, he started renovating and maintaining buildings.
Malefane proudly boasts that his company is among the top ten companies that maintain buildings in the Free State and Gauteng. Leano Solutions has offices in both provinces and employs over 70 people. He says the funny thing about business is in the beginning it’s about making a profit, but as his company grows and he employs more people, he realises the impact his company has had in changing the lives of his employees is one of the reasons he wakes up in the morning. “You first start off wanting the money, and then when you start making the money you start falling in love with the difference that the money can make.” – Seithati Semenokane