The price we pay for entrepreneurship with Sibongile Rakgatjane

Thursday, 18 June, 2020

Sibongile Rakgatjane is a formidable human. She owns her own business, Mo's Bakery. She makes incredible cakes. It was the first cafe in Mamelodi. Like everyone she has been hit hard by this pandemic, but unlike everyone, she chooses to use the opportunity to challenge herself, to grow, to help others in this time. We are constantly inspired by her. We are sharing her columns with her permission in the hope that you too find some inspiration and guidance. 

Entrepreneurship manifests itself in many forms and shapes. I did not know I was an entrepreneur until later in my life though I always had a knack for selling and convincing people to stray my way. I casually went through my teenage years selling scones and other baked goodies at school to sustain myself. I did not know then that I was an entrepreneur even though I had this feeling deep in my gut that I never wanted to work for anyone but myself. The one question I despised all my life was when my teachers posed the question, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ First it was doctor, and then accountant and then civil engineer and then I just did not bother to answer the question because entrepreneurship was not fashionable and rarely talked about at school.

Post matric I started taking my business serious and started my formal entrepreneurship journey if I may call it that. I invested whatever little I had in it and gave my all. I thought I paid all the necessary dues to become a fully fledged entrepreneur. I mean, I had recently resigned from my job and went head in first into the world of business. The price was paid I thought. I am finally a businesswomen. An entrepreneur. Young, black and able *the many slogans we have as newbies in the life of the entrepreneur*.

Little did I know that there was also a mental price that I had to pay. 2020 was the year assigned for me to pay my psychological dues and I was admitted to a Psychiatric hospital mid February 2020. How does a whole business women, who opened the first coffee shop in Mamelodi land in a psychiatric ward?

A journal entry I made on 25 February 2020

“Hey, I am at my lowest… Here is the drill, my mental state has declined and I am waiting to be assigned a bed at a psychiatric hospital or general hospital, wherever the doctor gets a bed.

Summary of how I feel..

“You lose interest in talking to people close to you. You lose interest in food. You lose interest in engaging in public spaces… you lose interest in everything. The best days are when you are sleeping and your phone is off. Your mind does not think about anything constructive… you laugh a-lot, not because you are happy but because you are hiding how you truly feel.

The way you feel inside manifests itself in your being unproductive and not being effective and efficient at all.

I will connect as soon as I have built confidence and can truly face life head on!

But for now, I am a liability to all those close to me because I have nothing to say.”

After that journal entry I find myself sitting at Admissions in a Psychiatric hospital. The bomb hit me hard, tears rolling down my face. I didn’t even know what I packed in my bag and I felt like I am just existing.

How the hell did I get here? My life is sinking, my business is sinking, I feel like dying…

Diagnosis… Major Depression caused by Childhood trauma. WHAT!!!??? Childhood what?

Going back to my childhood I was molested, had to work from an early age, suffered from middle child syndrome, had an unemployed mother, lived in a family house, had no father and I think all odds were against me being a success. I had a lot of emotional issues growing up and instead of dealing with them, I soaked myself in school work, making sure I was a top achiever. I had a point to prove to myself. A point to prove to my mom, my molester, my family. I can and will be successful. I never allowed anyone to deter me from what I wanted and that made me suppress my emotions and live on adrenaline. I lived on hustle.

When Mo’s came into existence, I had a lot of setbacks. I would have depressive episodes but those where quickly fixed by a bank notification that says, money deposit into your account. I was on a rollercoaster ride. HR issues, production issues, quality issues. It never ended. Not breaking even and just making poor choices.

Remember, I am a high achiever. I do not get deterred and because business was deterring me, I went into depression over a period of years until 2020 my psychiatric dues were upon me. I could not self motivate myself anymore. I wanted it all to end. I felt like a failure in all areas of my life.

I kept thinking to myself, “I AM A FAILURE”

I spent time in hospital. I thought business was the reason for my depression but no, my childhood was the reason. My childhood was hindering with my progress as a business women, wife, mother, friend, sister and associate.

My psychologist and psychiatrist tore my childhood apart and broke me only to rebuild me and make me a better person.

A couple of days into my therapy, I woke up one morning and noticed there was a very beautiful garden filled with succulents however I was too depressed to notice any of that before. Finally my mind and vision was opening up to the possibilities of life and I started appreciating the plants.

As Entrepreneurs we carry so much weight on our shoulders and it gets too much.

Another journal entry I made a few days before being discharged.

“My name is Sibongile. Not Mo (thats my business), not the Mo (thats my business), not Bongi (thats a shortcut and can mean anything), my name is sibongile. My name is enough. Thank you!

Depression in whatever form it presents itself to you is very evil. It robs you off yourself, your thoughts, your relationships and the zeal for life.

It makes you forget that the sky is blue, that birds chip and makes you forget how food tastes. It dampens everything you set your mind to and it locks you in a mental hole. You want to leave the hole but the emotions inside want to camp there.

You want to sit and dwell on all the wrong and forget all the right.

Depression robs you off yourself… Fetch your life by seeking help… mental health is as important as physical health.”

I am confident to say I paid my psychological dues for entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship broke me and forced me to deal with all the bitterness and anger inside me that I hid by overachieving. I am now a better entrepreneur. A progressive entrepreneur who is emotionally aware of herself and her surroundings.

I am proud to say that I see a Psychologist and Psychiatrist because entrepreneurship will kill you if you do not take care of yourself emotionally, physically and otherwise.


Yours in business,

Sibongile Rakgatjane

Got something to say? Then leave a comment!