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Christiaan's story on... transcendence: experiencing something greater than oneself

Having been on the receiving end of the positive impact a switch from employee to entrepreneur can have on both an individual and their family, Christiaan was destined to follow in his father's footsteps.  He knew he wanted to do something that would make a difference, but how he would do this was not clear, and he embarked on further studies to become a Chartered Accountant (he would later realise that this would be one of his greatest assets in running his own business).  

In the transition from student to first time job seeker, Christiaan realised that for many, this was a close to impossible feat.  This problem bothered him and never left his enquiring mind.  Adjacent to this time, he saw an opportunity before him to connect part time work seekers with an events company.  He realised he had hit on something that could be much bigger given the demand from the market.  With growing interest from both buyers (those hiring entry-level workers) and sellers (people looking for entry-level work), he had the fundamental mechanism in play to create a platform that could serve both.  Today Christiaan runs an online platform for entry-level jobs called JOBJACK, addressing the issue of accessibility and affordability for job seekers in South Africa, and is making a real success of it!

‘Solo think’ for the entrepreneur can be a challenge and those who have co-founders certainly do show a strength in mitigating this.  Being a twin, Christiaan stands firm in his belief, and as the saying goes: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together’. He brought a close friend, Heine Bellingan, into the business as co-founder who shares an uncanny duplicate of beliefs, values and vision not to mention his systems-oriented mind that would prove invaluable to the business, with this, complimenting Christiaan’s strengths of vision sharing and community building.  Together they were a mighty force, evolving this idea and using their strength as a pair to take the business to new heights.   As they pursued their idea, they realised that one should never assume everyone has it all figured out - Christiaan himself thought it was unlikely that all these corporations had not already figured out how to streamline and connect with entry-level job seekers.  Much to their surprise, they realised this wasn't the case, and their business took off.  Of course, it wasn't THAT easy…  

“Just as we thought we were on our way a clear take-off, we were hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.  All business momentum stopped. Thankfully we were backed by investors who really believed in our vision, and we weathered the storm together for nine quiet months until things started to turn”. 

Christiaan reminds us here how important the decision of investment really is, how finding investors who are truly aligned with your business purpose is essential to sound investment decision making for the unforeseeable future.  There are various storms we need to endure as a Founder, each bringing their own sets of challenges to overcome.  It took eighteen months of pilots to convert their first client but from there it spiralled.  

“Going into this with the knowledge that what you are doing is bigger than yourself, takes ego out of the way.  It is not only what we as co-founders are doing but also our leadership team, our investors and even our employees take ownership and are able to share this vision with the world.  Because of this, challenges are faced as a collective, with the very people you are in the trenches with”. 

Christiaan has intentionally led their business as a purpose-driven one, and this is the glue that binds them.  With this comes the need to find the right people to bring into the business.  We cannot underestimate the deep value we need to put into each and every hiring decision as the impact of getting it wrong can really poison a business.  It is our responsibility as Founders to set up a working environment for our people that is inspiring for them to be part of and contribute to, the adventure we are on. You may find, like Christiaan, that these are the very people that will inspire you as a Founder to keep on keeping on.  While we continue to focus on the impact we are making on our customers, let's not forget the impact we are responsible for making on the very people helping us build the business.  As for many Founders, it remains a challenge to get oneself out of the business and top of the business.  Getting ‘unstuck’ in the business, shifting out of the day to day, can really open up further inspiration for a Founder and is a transition many like Christiaan are working hard to make.  

“We appreciate the blitzscaling of startups, we do want to get there as quickly as possible, but we also appreciate that there is no quick fix to entry-level employment, or the lack thereof.  We are in it for the long run and that means we need to think of our mission as bigger than ourselves.  This must live beyond just me, it needs to be something that can continue to thrive into the future”.  

Christiaan is not prepared to put their purpose or people at risk to grow and scale as quickly as possible.  Cognisant of the risks, JOBJACK’s moves are calculated and taken with a lot of care and thought.  This is a Founder who hasn't lost sight of what is at stake and we admire his warm approach to business.  From early side hustle days in varsity selling clothing and other novelties, to his successful and growing venture today, it’s clear that bringing warmth to business is a strategy that works.

“Solving niche challenges Founders face”.

Illustrator: Lisa Williams (Instagram: @artist_llw)


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