LUVUYO Rani was a teacher in Khayelitsha who enjoyed his job and loved his students, but wanted to start his own business.

He saw a growing demand for computers, so he resigned and started selling refurbished computers from the boot of his car.

He launched Silulo Ulutho Technologies in 2004, but soon realised his target market did not understand the technology. So he opened an internet café where he could give Khayelitsha residents access to the internet and where they could learn about computers.

At first, no-one came. "We realised we had recognised a market - but that the market hadn't recognised itself.

"People need technology but we were pitching to a market that simply didn't know how to use what we were offering."

He started offering training courses. At first, the courses were ad hoc - an hour or two each day at the internet café. They eventually became more formalised and today Silulo has 18 computer centres in the Western Cape and five in the Eastern Cape, with plans to expand further and move into franchising. The centres offer training and internet access, as well as sell computers.

The centres also offer support and advice and each one has an internet café with support.

About 300 to 400 people visit the internet cafés each day.

Mr Rani said entrepreneurship is something he has been interested in from a young age. "When I was growing up my mother used to run a shebeen. It shaped me and I wanted to do something around entrepreneurship.

"I don't think I was meant for teaching. I was much more in love with entrepreneurship. It's more about doing something no-one has done and creating employment, and the effect of technology and people learning from us that you can start your business from nothing."

Silulo has gone from strength to strength and 3000 students will be trained this year. Since 2007, Silulo has trained more than 12000.

At one point the business struggled to get funding and was blacklisted. Silulo entered SAB KickStart, an entrepreneurship development programme, and won a grant.

Since then, internet provider MWeb has refurbished five centres for Silulo and cellphone network Vodacom has also entered into a partnership. The Bertha Foundation helped fund five stores.

Rani wants a presence in every province and the plan is to franchise the business by the end of the year.

"It's a huge opportunity. We see ourselves as a great distributor. When you look at rural areas and townships, people are still using old technology. There's not much about m-business [doing business using wireless services] or e-commerce."

Mr Rani, 38, studied at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and got a diploma in education and technology before teaching accounting and business economics at Kwamfundo High School. He later studied management at UCT's Graduate School of Business.

What advice would he give people starting a business?

Love what you do and remember that you cannot do everything, he said.

It is important to focus and do things to the best of your ability.

And dream big, he added.

Rani has plans to write a book about Silulo tomotivate and inspire others to be entrepreneurial.

"It's my drive to see people running their businesses."

Every six months he takes students from East London and Queenstown to help with projects in the area.

Silulo hosts basic computer courses for high-school students from schools in Khayelitsha during school holidays.

* This article was first published in Sunday Times: Business Times