Startup Stories: How an Underappreciated Employee Became an Entrepreneur with a Legacy


Jared Kruger

26 May 2019

Reading time: 7 min Thought leadership articles
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Mario Roos, a Startup School Graduate, was feeling overworked and underappreciated after 4 years as an employee in the lighting maintenance industry. So, in 2018, he took the future into his own hands and started his very own business, Lightec. Now, Mario is sharing it all, from his toughest lessons as a startup owner to his opinions of entrepreneurship in South Africa.

How Lightec Empowered Mario to Write His Own Story

Mario Roos, an Accountant by profession, fell in love with the lighting industry 6 years ago. Only, working hard for someone else didn’t always pay off. His passion was going unnoticed, and his dedication unrewarded. So, Mario ventured off on his own to begin Lightec, a planned lighting and electrical maintenance company with a strong focus on energy efficiency.

This is his story.

  1. You don’t need to be big to be bold
  2. How to make money fast find fulfilment
  3. And then the entrepreneurship course happened
  4. What entrepreneurship means to South Africa

You don’t need to be big to be bold

If you had to ask, you’d probably find that most of your friends have plans for their own startup in the future. Because owning a business sounds great, right? So what’s stopping them? Could it be the fear of failing? Or maybe it’s the fear of hard work?

 

Either way, these obstacles weren’t enough to stop Mario from taking the leap out of full-time employment, and into self-employment. Because he’d found his passion, and nothing would stand in his way.

 

I am an Accountant by profession and studied it at university, but 6 years ago I happened to stumble into the lighting industry, and just fell in love with everything to do with lighting. It was something new, and something I had never given any thought to before, and it’s fascinated me ever since. I wanted to write my own story, so I just decided that I could do this for myself and create a legacy for my family.

 

Still, as a small business in a big market, Mario faced some challenges. And he faced them with courage.

 

Initially I faced many challenges, chief amongst them was that the company I had worked for issued me with a restraint of trade for 2 years. I managed to go to court, and to get that reduced to 6 months on existing clients only. I could however approach other clients. Being a small company looking to get into the value chains of bigger corporate organisations was, and continues to be, difficult.

 

You see, Lightec was a little startup with a bold leader. And that bold leader was determined to create a life of fulfilment for himself and his family.

How to make money fast find fulfilment

If you told Mario that owning a business was all about the moolah, he’d have to disagree.

 

Business is not about making a quick buck. I’m an amateur marathon runner, and I think about starting and running a business in the same way. It takes time to get settled, and it will take perseverance to overcome the many obstacles, but when you start hitting your stride, you enjoy it and can’t imagine doing anything else.

 

So what does it mean to be an entrepreneur to Mario?

 

The fact that I get up in the morning and I decide how I’m going to structure my day. I decide what areas of the business I’m going to focus on, because I know that at the end of it, I will add value to my business.

 

Mario even had the privilege of sitting down with Shoprite Co-Founder Whitey Basson. He spoke to him about the struggles encountered by PEP and Shoprite in their early years of growth, and how much hard work it took before becoming truly successful.

 

He inspired me to keep going, because I believe in my vision for Lightec.

And then the entrepreneurship course happened

In 2017, when Lightec was just starting out, Mario decided to upskill himself as a startup owner. So he signed on for the Startup School entrepreneurship course.

 

Startup School gave me the opportunity to learn how to think critically about the macro aspects of my business. To look five or ten years down the line and see where I want to be, and then to implement the coursework to get there, was amazing. I recommend Startup School to any entrepreneur. Do the 12 week course, and you will come out better equipped on the other side.

 

What entrepreneurship means to South Africa

As a South African entrepreneur, we asked Mario for his opinions on entrepreneurship and business opportunities in South Africa. This is what he had to say.

 

There are many people driven to create something sustainable and to provide for their families [in South Africa]. I believe that government can do a lot more to create platforms for entrepreneurs to flourish. They can reduce the tax that small businesses have to pay. They can also legislate that bigger corporates allocate a certain percentage of procurement to SMEs

Get Inspired

As a guy with a lot of passion and drive, it’s not surprising that Mario wanted to share his sources of inspiration with fellow South African entrepreneurs. Apart from entrepreneurship courses, Mario recommends Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, for anyone who is currently a startup owner, or soon to be a startup owner.

 

What it shows is that success doesn’t just happen overnight as many people assume, but that a lot of hard work goes on behind the scenes before you become successful.

 

Finally, Mario shared his favourite quote, in the hopes that it would motivate you to keep striving toward your dreams.

 

My favourite quote is by William Butler Yeats. It says ‘Don’t ever let someone tell you that you can’t do something… All of our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them’.

 

If you have any thoughts or questions for Mario, pop them into the comments section below!


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