Let’s go serial, let’s make history: Soabeb

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, they say.

And Rogelio Soabeb, the Entrepreneur of the Year, 2011 surely agrees, as this Chinese saying has seen him achieve the almost ‘impossibles’ of life.

But he says, he’s ‘there’ but ‘not there yet’; if that makes sense.

Before the start of this interview, he is clear that he wouldn’t fancy an ‘auto-bio’ kind of article about him, “If I wanted my bio out there, I’d call Google people (in a hearty laugh).” So I ask what he’d want people to read about him if not his life story and he prompts, “Don’t make me sound stuck-up like some no-nonsense kind of boss who never smiles.”

And soon, a mere hours’ long chat rolls itself into an interview, with me only having written, “He was born in...”

Bred by a single mother in Grootfontein since his birth in 1979, he ploughed through education in Makalani Primary School and later went to the then all-white school, Grootfontein High School - GHS (except for the few black kids of whom he was amongst).

Graciousness was never a natural virtue for him while growing up as he was expelled from GHS for mischief and transferred to Mariamongere Secondary School for his grades 11 and 12.

What has turned out to be his lifetime career is a product of lessons learnt from Capetech College in South Africa through a diploma and a degree in sales and marketing as well as what he passionately refers to as “street college”.

“I only realised what I was good at while in college. Funny thing is, every one of my peers back then all paced hard to get jobs immediately after college and of course I was amongst them; to be honest with you, I really regret it but tell you what, being street smart has had its mark on me,” he confides.

Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life, his mother always said to him. And he heeded that piece of advice; a move that would see him pursuing Web Design. Equipped with his sales and marketing skills, he decided to dare being different - to become a serial entrepreneur.

“To open a shop is easy, to keep it open is an art,” he states. But telling himself that he would move mountains to keep his shops open is what has got him to keep growing a business empire in-the-making that he calls Mater-mind Corp.

This “business empire in-the-making” is comprised of Nelio Simulations (a part of the company dedicated to creating simulation software programmes to NamSim (a part of the “empire” that provides the actual simulation programmes to clients; which in fact earned him the Entrepreneur of the Year award last year). Then there is Beyond Africa; a tours and travel company that serves local and international tourists.

He takes pride in the fact that he has managed to be a part of enough industries in the country; motoring being one of them apart from tourism, with Kingster Motor Distributors as his other venture. As if being a serial entrepreneur is child play, he admits, it is not easy being humble when all is going great. However, he manages to remain grounded through the inspiration he gets from being amongst the few young black Namibians to make it in regard to serial entrepreneurship.

“Tell you what; I totally attribute my successes thus far to working smart, not hard. It’s all in planning. Failing to plan is planning to fail and whoever gets that into their heads can achieve almost anything under the sun. And how could I forget my mom who realised I was book-smart, so even though I was a handful in school and would be suspended and expelled, she’d always just look for another school for me to go to till I finished my studies,” he emphasises.

Given that the other four sub-companies of his empire-in-the-making may seem a bit too formal, Rogelio gets dirty too through Viamala Investments; an independent farming venture based in Gobabis. Through this venture, he provides farming services to farmers in the Gobabis area using Simantaler and Brahman breeds of cows. He says as a serial entrepreneur, “You have to have an advisor; you cannot be too arrogant as to think that you can do it alone, lest you be trapped in a dark dirty hole.”

And while being the Entrepreneur of the Year, 2011 sounds flashy and yet totally genius, he admits he could never have achieved the package that changed his life unaided, “That thing sucked life out of me. I worked pretty smart though and I know I deserved it. Through professional mentorship, I knew I had to first of all have the idea, draw up a business plan, then follow it immediately with a marketing plan that would see a well-structured strategic and financial plan,” he explains adding that a strategic and financial plan should be any aspiring serial entrepreneur’s bible. “You would end up in a back-log without a smart strategic plan, for sure.”

While many his age gloat on their lucky days for clinching deals for their bosses, the recently turned 33-year-old beams at the light his new found title has shined amongst his peers. He acknowledges that he’s no Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook but he’s sure that as long as he stays on the right track through the guidance of his professional advisors, he might just end being the next Pupkewitz, not that he emulates his gait.

“I’m big on Sydney Martin. The guy is a genius in a million ways. Can’t get enough of how he does his business and the smart professional decisions he makes. I admire and look up to him in the local sense but my overall big guy is Donald Trump. Surely, you cannot get me started on him ‘cause it would take us a whole week,” he chuckles.

What concept, idea, motto or policy keeps him motivated and constantly inspired as a businessman, I ask, “Procrastination is the thief of time” he punctuates adding, “No idea is too big or too small, especially when it’s out of the box. Prepare to maximise your account, credit card and late night sleeps when you truly believe in your idea. Be ready for haters and make sure they suffer from fumes as you drive past them.” Pause, sigh, then, “Remember, if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t, don’t even waste your time and money on it.”

And who needs a bio after all this! PF