Mpumelelo Mtintso bills himself as a visionary bicycle entrepreneur. In addition to wanting to support himself, he also wants to empower others, and he has discovered a creative way to do it.
Book Ibhoni is located in Soweto on Vilakazi Street, and was founded by Mtintso, 33. In using a smart play on words, the name properly sums up his business. In townships all around South Africa, the word “ibhoni” is slang for a bicycle. He characterizes Book Ibhoni as a bicycle trip operator with a twist.
He said, “When someone makes a reservation for a Soweto bicycle tour experience with us, We provide reduced bicycle tours to anyone that donates a book or two.”He gives the books to neighborhood NGOs and libraries around Soweto. He cites this as the reason he is so passionate about encouraging young people to read, He thinks it is crucial to arm young brains with knowledge.
He said: “I was inspired by the fees must fall movement and the notion of free education. There is a perception that we as blacks don’t like to read, and stats show our school-going children’s literacy levels are not where they should be, but when you go to our community libraries, there are no books, and we know for a fact there are people with books at home collecting dust.”
A student-led protest movement known as #FeesmustFall started in the Univesity of Witswatersrand in the middle of October 2015. The initiative aimed to boost government financing for colleges while also halting increases in student fees. Before quickly expanding to other universities nationwide, demonstrations began at Wits, then moved on to the University of Cape Town and Rhodes University.
In addition to selling bicycles and bicycle equipment, it also provides bicycle riding classes. Under Mtintso’s direction, Book Ibhoni is prospering, most recently it won a prize in the travel and tourism category of the first Top 16 Youth-Owned Brand Awards 2022.The Pat On Brands initiative’s awards are focused on empowering and recognizing South African youth-founded and -run brands.
Each entry was assessed and scored by a panel of judges, which included academics, marketers, thought leaders, and industry award winners, to determine which was the strongest contender in each category. Khumalo & Mabuya lawyers, a renowned black-owned chartered accounting company, conducted additional evaluations of the nominees.
For Mtintso and his team, receiving the prize represents a significant victory, and it gives him confidence in the decisions he has taken.“It means a lot to me especially coming from a community where bicycles are seen as toys, and we are out here making a living using bicycles. So this recognition means a lot to me and the team. It just says we are on the right track,” he said. For the past seven years, Mtintso has been developing his brand and company he finds the process to be difficult.“Bicycles are not very popular in Soweto, and the topography of Soweto is not very flat, which makes it challenging for cycling,” he said.
Mtintso has demonstrated that he is a resourceful and resilient person in addition to being a successful businessman. The travel and tourist industry suffered greatly when the nation went into heavy lockdown more than two years ago, but Mtintso and his team were able to refocus their efforts and he was able to see an opportunity in the Soweto market that he was able to take advantage of.