It’s a cold winter day in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. Chills run through the body like a quiet ghost, coming and going, making your hair stand on end. The cold has played a big part in Oyama Dyosiba’s journey to entrepreneurship. On this day, he is feeling a little under the weather; but his personality is like hot chocolate and marshmallows on a cold day.
As we meet, he sips hot water and feels the warmth of success born of years of struggle. The 31-year-old was one of GQ’s 2014 best-dressed men, is the founder of Oyama Management Agency, a social entrepreneur, and actor.
This is a world away from the cold and unwelcoming East London in the Eastern Cape province and the days when he was bewildered and penniless.
The problem was he had nowhere to go. So, he slept on a cold bench in Johannesburg’s Park Station.
“I didn’t know anyone or where I was going. Every morning, I would sit on the benches and pretend as if I’m waiting for a bus. I would go to the bathroom, wash my face, brush my teeth and then go and look for a job. I wanted to be here so I had to be strong and resilient,” he says.
Dyosiba landed a call centre job and moved into an apartment in Braamfontein. In the months following this breakthrough, he scored a full time job as a marketing manager for City Varsity, a media and art school.
After a few years, he lost motivation and was unhappy in the job.
“I started thinking that I didn’t want to work for anyone. If I can turn City Varsity to what it is today surely I can do something of my own. That’s when I decided to start my own business.”
There was soul searching and research. Out of it came Oyama Management Agency in 2010.
“Starting a business is not easy. There are a lot of struggles, hard work and effort needed in order to be successful,” he says.
Thinking he had made it was dangerous. A second tragedy struck and he found himself homeless for the second time in four years thanks to his new business venture.
“I lost my apartment because the business was not making money as often as I needed it to. Sometimes clients didn’t pay on time and I was in trouble.”
With nowhere to go again, he moved into a tiny storeroom and slept on boxes.
“It was difficult. I put my things in the small storeroom of a building I used to stay in. The building manager was kind enough to let me keep all my things there. I couldn’t even go to the bathroom at night. I was forced to hold it in, [urine] in a container or run to the roof of the building,” he says.
“People in Johannesburg only like people when things are well. I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me so I pretended as if everything was okay.”
The pressure of survival in the big city and the confines of a storeroom did not stifle his dream.
“No one ever knew I had no place to stay. I even hosted the launch for my company and I was hungry in the stomach but my brain was full of hope.”
“I knew what I wanted and I wasn’t about to stop. I would go to a gym, close by, to bath every single day and no one knew. If you have a vision you have to keep going no matter what.”
Hard work prevailed and five years later he has swapped the storeroom for an apartment in Kyalami, north of Johannesburg.
Dyosiba not only hosts events packed tighter than two coats of paint but he is a businessman and TV actor. He has featured in TV shows such as Tempy Pushas and My Girl D.
Oyama Management Agency has 37 fulltime employees and many more on contract.
When the agency first started, it concentrated on model and artist management. The company has grown over the years to include event planning and hosting events such as polo matches, brand activations, fashion shows and music festivals.
He works with models such as Devon Muir and fashion designers who dress celebrities such as Weza Solange, Nomuzi Mabena and Dineo Moeketsi.
He knows the industry and is streetwise.
“I have turned down five clients this month alone because where there is no money there is no Oyama. In business you have to be strict. If you want the best job then you have to pay for it,” he says.
He counts Vodacom, Coca-Cola, MTN, beMOBILE and Peroni among clients he has worked with in the past.
“When clients trust you and know that you will deliver, it becomes easier because you get to a point where you don’t have to approach them and they approach you,” he says.
Fashion designer Quiteria Kekana of Quiteria&George says Dyosiba is a shrewd businessman who never gives up.
“There are a lot of artists he works with. He also organizes a lot of events around Africa and they are always a success. He hosted a Fashion Without Borders event and people in the industry were all talking about it. It was a success, a big success.”
According to Kekana, Dyosiba’s models score big contracts and some of them appear on national TV.
If nothing, Dyosiba’s story proves that with a brain full of hope you can fill the stomach. Limits are made to be broken. With the right attitude, anyone can do it.