Kick start magazine: How I made my first million
Find out how Gayton McKenzie, who had no higher education and job experience when he walked out of jail, laid the foundation to Hustler’s Empire in this Q&A about what it takes to go from earning $100 a month to making the first of more millions.

Gayton McKenzie on his uncontrollable desire to want to make money and how he made it happen.

Tanya Jovanosvski once said “Making a million requires 3 Cs, – Capital, Competence and Confidence.” I have no doubt in my mind that the man we are introducing to you today, Mr Gayton McKenzie, has all three Cs, and more.

Just like Drake, he started from the bottom now he’s here, at the top of his game. This interview takes an in-depth look at the lessons to be learned from his latest book, A Hustlers Bible, while at the same time sharing with us the process he followed in escaping his shady past to become one of SA’s most influential and powerful entrepreneurs of our time.

KICKSTART: Let’s start from the beginning, who is Gayton, where was he born, what kind of childhood did he have and what aspirations did you have as a young boy growing up?

Gayton: Wow, that was such a good intro; I just started to feel extra confident about myself after that. I was born in Bloemfontein and I really had big dreams of having big money. Choices were there for us, like being a policeman or a nurse but that was not even a consideration in my mind. I wasn’t going to be a policeman or a nurse or a teacher because those careers are limiting, money-wise. When I grew up all I wanted money, I had an uncontrollable love for it and that is why I fell into crime.

KICKSTART: What is a hustler and why did you feel the need to address him directly and guide and shape his ambition?

Gayton: A hustler is somebody that knows that the word ‘no’ doesn’t exist. A hustler does not have working hours. A hustler does what it takes to make it. Hustlers don’t have excuses. Hustlers do fail, but if a hustler falls down 330 times, only a hustler will stand up 331 times. That’s what’s a hustler is. I felt the need to speak out about being a hustler because what I’d seen rich people do, in this country and everywhere else, is that they put you in a box and they say to you; ‘if you want to be rich these are three steps you have to follow. You have to go to university, you have to find a job and then you work until you are 65 and then you get a pension’ and you can’t even dream of drive a sports car. So basically for me, a hustler is somebody that makes the best of they’ve got. Particularly for many black people who couldn’t go to study but they had to pay for their sibling’s studies, there is no reason why he should now sit and say all right, my sibling will make it and I will not make it. Even the guy who went to university and studied in a particular direction should not feel like they can’t make something great out of their lives without opportunities in that particular direction. A hustler is someone that does something about that, who makes a plan when there is no plan, who forms a path where there is no path.

Nombuso: A lot of people dislike you. They think you are full of you know what. Why do you think that is?

Gayton: Let me tell you about people. People are fickle. Let me give you an example; people used to love Michael Jackson, then they hated Michael Jackson, then they loved Michael Jackson again, now what does that tell you? It tells you that people’s opinion of you is not a permanent thing. Now, why would I worry about something that is not permanent? There are some people who hate Nelson Mandela; there are some people who hate Oprah Winfrey. Now, who the hell is Gayton McKenzie to demand all-round love? I don’t really care what people say about me, the only people I care about are the people who care about me. The ones that love me, I love back. The ones that hate me, I hate back. That’s how my life is. Where I can do good, I do good, but I’m not going to live my life worried about people that should actually be worried about their own lives.

Nombuso: By the way, A Hustler’s Bible is absolutely remarkable from our perspective. It is really one of a kind. Why do you think the book is such a huge success despite you having so many haters? We suspect that your haters are really your admirers, would you agree??

Gayton: [laughs]l] Let me start with the Hustler Bible; I’ve always known that it was going to do well but I’ve never, never in my wildest dreams imagined that it would do this well. We have sat around the table with the staff and thought; ‘Why is this book just doing so well?’ And what we’ve noted is that there is an absence of hope, and that’s why this book is doing so well. There’s an absence of hope and it think this book brings hope. There are many books out there like Rich Dad, Poor Dad and The Secret that people look at for inspiration and as good and well written as these books are, they are written for the American public. Those books are not written for our economy. Where will you, they say for instance, get a loan from your parents? A loan from your parents? {Chuckles}. Your parents survive on a loan, so how will they still give you a loan. So A Hustler’s Bible speaks to them, it speaks to township living, it says to our people; here is a man that comes from minus zero but still managed to prosper. I come from minus zero and I managed to make something out of my life. So people look at other people and say; if he can do it, I can do it. That is what The Hustlers Bible is all about. And believe me when I say that with A Hustlers Bible there are a lot of people that hate me but they still go out and buy the book. That is a very good thing because the book is not about Gayton McKenzie being the person that my haters perceive me to be. The book reflects on some of the mistakes that I’ve committed in my life. I just want to tell people the dog is not dead yet, don’t give up no matter what, go out there and make it.

Nombuso: Why do you think a lot of hard working entrepreneurs cannot reach your level of success despite putting in so much effort?

Gayton: [Laughs] Let me start with the hustler bible; I’ve always know that it is going to do well but I’ve never, never in my wildest dreams imagined that it will do this well. A hustlers bible, I think, we have sat around the table with the staff and thought; ‘why is this book just doing so well’. And you know what, there is an absence of hope, and that’s why this book is doing so well. There’s an absence of hope, it think this book brings hope. You know you look at these books Rich dad, Poor dad, The Secret. All those type of books, are really good books but are written for the American public. It is not the books written for our economy. Where will you, they say for instance, get a loan from your parents? Your parents survive on a loan, so how will they still give you a loan. So this book speaks to them, it speaks to township living, it says to people; you know what, here is a man that comes from minus zero. I come from minus zero and I managed to make something out of my life. So people look at other people and say; if he can do it, I can do it. And that is what A Hustlers Bible is all about. And believe me when I say that, there are a lot of people who hates me but, when it comes to A Hustler’s Bible they still go out and buy the book. Which is a very good decision because the book is not Gayton McKenzie; it is two totally different entities. What you read in that book is some of the mistakes that I’ve committed myself. I just want to tell people the dog is not dead yet, don’t give up no matter what, go out there and make it.

Nombuso: In your book, you are quoted as saying, “No matter how good your plan is, most people will not give money to a young business person- not while there are so many tried and tested old dogs out there. It often breaks my heart to see all the energy, drive and effort of young people, while knowing that for many of them the sad reality is that in the near future all of that will be replaced with despair and disbelief.”

When it comes to investing, do you follow the trend of also investing in tried and tested old dogs, or do you have plans of becoming a trailblazer in this respect by investing in a youth-owned business?

Gayton: The answer to the first part of your question is that, it breaks my heart truly to see young people when they meet me to say we need funding when I know they won’t get funding because by funding young people you take a risk while there are established businesses that will certainly give you a return. So I look at them and it breaks my heart but also it makes me very angry because, I think it was Einstein that said; “Madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It makes me angry that someone would spend ten years looking for funding, instead of doing something within those ten years. I always get involved with young people whose businesses are already there. I want to meet you halfway. I do not want you to use me to help you start. Help will meet you along the way, that’s my motto. I tell people to start, no matter how skew, how small and let help meet you along the way. Given that you run the risk of that help never coming, you can wait your whole life for help. What if that help never comes? You can’t wait until you are 60 and have a heap of unutilized business plans and complain that nobody wanted to help you. It is nobody’s responsibility to help you. You need to understand that in life, the world owes you nothing. If I waited for help I would still be waiting however I realized very quickly that nobody is going to give me funding. That is why I started selling fish and chicken.

Nombuso: Here is another quotes from your book that I’d like to discuss with you, it says , “Don’t have the silly belief that you have to respond to every attack, every bit of gossip about you, every rumour or worst of all, every tweet you come across about you on anything and everything. “

That’s an interesting statement you make there. How did you arrive at this conclusion because when somebody verbally attacks you, one’s first instinct is to fight back and put them in their place? When is it okay to be defensive and when is it not?

Gayton: That is a very good question. Let me give you an example because you mentioned the tweet. Anybody that attacks you on twitter, the first thing you do, you need go check how many followers they have. If it’s those ones with eight followers, six followers, they want to become relevant with you. This people are just harmless snakes. I’ll make an example of snakes instead of saying haters. Some snakes are just haters, who are harmless and would make a comment along the lines of, ‘Aah G, why are you wearing two watches, that is so dumb’. Now what harm does that cause me? Why do I need to leave my money making mission? This is not enough to make me leave my mission of bettering myself to respond to a silly tweet. You do not need to respond to things that do not move your life forward. But if, for example, somebody goes to your editor and fellow worker and says something negative about you, now that is a different matter because this person is now playing with your bread and butter. That gives you enough reason to respond and say ‘hey wait up, I heard you said this and that, and what you said was not true.’ Now those are things you respond to, to defend your character and integrity. Why must I tell people my reason for wearing two watches? Once again, people take themselves too seriously. People talk about you because you are relevant. Why do you get angry when people speak about you? Who are you not to be spoken about? Who doesn’t gossip? People act like they don’t gossip; there is not a single person that does not gossip. There’s nobody who doesn’t gossip. Priests gossip, judges gossip and so does everyone else. Gossip is speaking behind someone’s back and we all do that. So why do I get angry when it is my turn to be gossiped about? I don’t have time for stuff like that. We waste our time on trivial stuff, instead of making money, building your life and helping other people, we are now busy investigating who is gossiping about us.

Nombuso: On 3 Talk, a viewer tweeted that there was a mine that almost collapsed because its CEO was an ex-convict who couldn’t speak English and that you are a disgrace to society. You responded by asking her if she’s representative of society and addressed the misconception that English equals intelligence by citing the example that President Zuma is not the best-spoken yet he holds the number 1 position in the land. Can you please address this issue again because we feel that it must be preached over and over until people get that English is not a sign of intelligence or a pre-determiner to wealth creation.

Gayton: That is a black thing. That is a thing of people who never travelled. I went to Italy and you will be hard-pressed to find anybody that speaks English. A week ago I was in Ukraine; you will struggle to find somebody who speaks English. I, personally, know three billionaires who do not know English. Now I know my uncle at home, in fact, every black person has a drunk uncle that knows how to speak English very well. You’re not black if you do not have that uncle who is fluent in the queen’s language. My uncle has no money; he is so unsuccessful, it’s not even funny. He doesn’t have a job but he speaks English very well. So, many people come here because they have not travelled. They think you have to be very well versed in English to be successful and that is just rubbish. People would say that ‘How could he be in charge of a mine when he doesn’t speak like the queen?’ I don’t need to speak like the queen. ‘Money speaks all languages’ that is what I said to that lady on 3talk. . Some people think that if you do not have money you are unsuccessful; we need to change that mindset. There is no link between success and money. We have these beliefs that we want to force other people to believe in but I know better because I look at those beliefs and I side step aside and I do the total opposite. People ask me ‘why do you wear a cap when you go into a board meeting?’ I do it because I can. They say ’you can’t wear a cap into a board meeting, because you wouldn’t get the deal.’ Regardless I will go into any boardroom with my cap sideways; wearing a t-shirt and all-stars, because I can. I don’t follow the normal route.

Nombuso: We hold you in high regard and unlike other journalists from the other publications whom we won’t mention now, who continue to speculate on why ZAR Cape Town and Joburg was closed, we actually know why because it’s all in the book. Why did you feel the need to tell it all?

Gayton: The problem that we have in this country is that there’s very few people that would call in like you did and that’s why I was willing to talk to KICKSTART. If people say ZAR Cape Town is closed down, you can go to ZAR in Cape Town we are doing row upon row in business. We are doing well. We get sued all the time. People don’t sue the wrong people; they sue people who are successful because they want your money. ZAR Cape Town was sued by the hotel, they wanted to liquidate ZAR. They failed in court because we fought back. Everybody can sue you but not everybody can win against you.ZAR Joburg; we happened to be located on the top floor of the hotel which was exactly where we wanted to be and we paid serious money to occupy that space. However the hotel had 13 floors and they wanted to extend it to 21 floors and we did not want to be in the middle of the floors. They came to us and said guys we going to move you and we said well it’s going to cost you a whole lot of money. This is how much we want if you want us to move. And the guys said alright, took out their cheque book and we signed. Cape Town is still operating. So the things you have been reading aren’t true, it’s mostly tabloid hearsay, unlike KICKSTART, the other publications do not bother to call us. They said ‘ZAR Cape Town is closed’ yet it’s not closed. This year, Kenny, my business partner, has held a party at ZAR in Cape Town, not on the street, in the club. So just to tell you that most of what you read about us, it’s just rumours. People say Gayton is arrogant yet; they don’t know who I am, nevertheless that opinion of me is formed by some journalist who is under pressure from their editor and will write anything about Gayton. At the end of the day to be honest with you, it doesn’t bother me, because I know who I am. The people that I care about, and who care about me, they know who I am. If they are in doubt of who I am then they shouldn’t be in my life.

Nombuso: Your honesty is actually quite encouraging because we are a young company that’s open to learning. What part do you think honesty plays in a hustler’s life?

Gayton: People will tell you that in business you must always tell the truth. Listen; let me tell you the truth today. That’s nonsense. You sometimes have to have a persona where you act more successful than you actually are. I’ll give you an example. When we started out, Kenny was managing me and we had to go give a speech to three hundred of the top business people in Joburg. We rocked up there with a Ferrari that we’d borrowed from a car and business cards we’d just printed at the very last minute. We had the Ferrari but they didn’t know we were actually broke as hell. They were impressed that a motivational speaker would be driving that car. All of those people ended up booked me, at R25 000 per person, we made close to a million bucks. You know why? That is not dishonesty that is hustling. You can’t come with a begging bowl all the time. People don’t take people who that are always asking and begging seriously. Act more successful than what you really are. . I once had to meet a very important guy. I went to the restaurant where I was going to meet him later and I made it my mission to study the menu because I had never been to the restaurant before. So I asked the waiter, ‘so how do I pronounce this, what is this, what is that for?’ and he taught me stuff I never knew. That’s number 1. Number 2, I said to him when I walk in here tonight what you must say is ‘Mr McKenzie, sorry we are full but for you we will definitely get a place for you if you give us one minute.’ Number 3, I asked him to say ‘Mr McKenzie we thank you so much you are always so generous with your tips’ as I was about to leave. It didn’t stop there. I had five other guys that came in, one by one and they’d wave at me with great excitement from a distance. Remember I was a nobody then, but I’m a hustler. When my guest left there, he knew that I was the guy to know. People want you to follow the same rules that have been written by people that have already made their money; the truth is that they don’t want you to make money. They are called old money and I refuse to be told how to behave by old money. That is the advice that I have for people starting a new business, be relentless. If every door that you knock on closes, it’s time to go through the window. If you have been knocking on doors that won’t open, it’s time to go around and go to the windows. When your editor was telling me that even government officials are not helping her, I realised that it was because she is speaking to the apes; it’s time that she goes to Tarzan. Hijack Tarzan, that being the MEC or whoever who has the real authority, at a function and just tell them who you are and that you are struggling. You don’t always get what you deserve in life, you get what you negotiate.

I see people like yourselves opening businesses, very good businesses and sometimes I see them going nowhere, because you all want to be prim and proper about your businesses. No! You’re a hustler, you must make a plan. You can’t make money, part-time, you can’t achieve success part-time. For me, when you are just starting out, you should view your business is like it is a baby. It is going to cry, nag, and demand all your attention and it is also going to take your money. You wouldn’t go on leave from looking after your baby because it would suffer because it depends on you. The same should apply to your business.

When a woman loves a child, you can’t separate them. Every moment is priceless with the child. Even when the child poohs, she’s like ‘ooh so much pooh today.’ She doesn’t abandon the child because of the pooh problem. She becomes part of the solution by potty-training this child. . Treat a business like your baby not just in the word but in the action. Be with it, never leave it, attend to it, help it to grow, fight for it and lastly if need be never hesitate to turn the world upside-down just to be make sure that your babe has all that it needs to flourish. Apply the same treatment to your business. If you can’t get funding, turn the whole world upside-down to get it. This is the best advice I could give you when it comes to business.

On that captivating note, we’ve come to the end of part one of this eye-opening interview with the legendary Mr. McKenzie. If you are interested in learning more about hustling to win, be sure to join us for the 2nd and 3rd part of Gayton’s heart-to-heart conversation with KICKSTART where he lays all of his success cards on the table, for us to learn from them and prosper like him.

Till next time, remember to keep knocking on those doors and if they won’t let you in, you should consider using the window to get in.

THE END