Siphiwe iTutor is a tutoring service that focuses on helping students to achieve their academic goals, with a focus on maintaining the balance between mental and physical health. Founded by Nondumiso Mahhumane after one of her most difficult years, the company has gone from an unexpected venture to a fully fledged operation.
Mahhumane is a chemist by day and a tutor by night. During her studies towards an Honours Degree in Chemistry in 2019, the entrepreneur began a bakers’ confectionary business alongside her mother. “Every morning I strived to wake up early, go to school and sell the cookies we made,” she recalls. As the love for delicious baked goods would have it, they were able to buy an oven to meet the growing demand for their sweet treats within a month of starting the business.
Her mother’s passing a month later, however, would be the event which would shape Nondumiso’s life and purpose as an entrepreneur. When she started Siphiwe iTutor in 2020, she decided that the business would be in honour and remembrance of her mother. After all, the company is named after her.
Though short-lived, Mahhumane’s position as a baking business owner gave her a taste of the possibilities that come with entrepreneurship. Having balanced the grief of her loss and the diligence required for the remainder of her studies, she passed her final exams. Reflecting on that period, she says, “I just had to show up, so I just spent 2019 showing up”. With the COVID-19 pandemic following a few months later, however, things became increasingly difficult. “I was not registered under any institution and I had no job,” she says. So, when a neighbour asked her for tutoring lessons in preparation for exam season, it marked the beginning of Mahhumane’s business.
From there, in her own words, “the word spread” and she steadily attained more clients. But even with the positive response to her services, it was not easy to make ends meet. One of her biggest challenges was cash flow, with dishonoured payments being a major contributor. Frustrated and disappointed by the difficulty of navigating such challenges, Mahhumane went on a determined internet search for help. She wanted to learn how to manage her business, how to grow it and where to receive mentorship. And that’s how she found Black Umbrellas.
“If I had known all the things I have learned through Black Umbrellas, I could have saved so much time and money”
She also admits that as more of an academic, running a business doesn’t exactly come naturally to her. So, when she began to receive training and mentorship for her business, things became a lot clearer for her. Not only has the Business Foundation Programme allowed her to take a more “structured” approach to growing Siphiwe iTutor, but it has equipped her with the confidence to dream and plan for bigger things than she could have ever imagined.
Mahummane’s business goals now include creating jobs for graduates by fostering a community of young tutors, and developing a culture of passion around education. Having been an unemployed graduate herself, she knows that the greater impact of her business will be in the way it contributes to the livelihood of others through employment. In this way, her goals are geared toward playing her part in rebuilding the economy at large.
Nondumiso’s story demonstrates that impact may not always be measured in traditional milestones and exclusionary metrics – especially when it is not realistic to do so. Sometimes the impact of an organisation like Black Umbrellas is in the little things, like an entrepreneur’s increased confidence, meeting compliance requirements and formalisation, or adopting a more structured approach to business operations. Success, as so aptly shown by Nondumiso Mahhumane, is often also expressed in the progressive steps of a business’s development.