Growing up in Soweto, 27-year-old Thabang Manalo was one of four children to a single mother. Times were difficult and finances were tight .

“I was second-born. Before me, it’s my sister Rowdy, and then my younger brother Tebogo and baby sister Refilwe,” explains Thabang. “Mama would always ask us to let her know when we needed things, so that she could include them in the budget. We would each get a turn.”

Two years before Manalo matriculated at Lebone High School, his mother passed away. Despite this major setback, he continued to pursue his dream, enrolling at the South West Gauteng TVET College – George Tabor Campus to study travel and tourism.

Due to life struggles and no support structures in place, Thabang couldn’t complete his studies. Funding ran dry, and he had to consider alternatives. Realising that sitting around was not going to get things done, he started researching his options for earning an income and applied to work at a staffing company specialising in hospitality.

His break came in 2013 when he was placed at the WesBank Fairlands Campus, working as a barista on one of the onsite coffee shops.

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While working there, Manalo started formulating his idea. He considered his own situation and also looked at his past to build motivation for a product that could help others.

He came up with an idea that saw him rise from being a barista to working as an administrator in the Bank’s corporate finance division.

Thabang’s idea was simple: a financial tool that helped first-time car buyers to save up for their vehicle payments, to prove that they are able and responsible when it comes to affording car repayments.

With a very real goal to incentivise saving and responsible budgeting, first-time buyers can proactively work on their credit profiles. Between three and six months’ instalments can be saved up, and the money can still be accessed at any time – including to be used as a deposit for a car purchase.

“I thought to myself: all these first-time buyers can’t get a car because they have no credit record. So how must they show that they can be reliable and trusted? I thought that what we need is a lay-buy… but for cars,” he says enthusiastically.

Manalo’s idea was incorporated into the FNB Gold Save product and lets consumers save towards a set goal, such as a car.

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In his current role, he is learning about internal business processes and constantly thinks of ways to improve, add efficiency and challenge norms. He has taught himself to master important business systems and, with the backing of an understanding team leader, has requested to receive training to help further his own development.

“My goal is that ten years from now I can work upstairs, in a management position,” he says, with eyes lighting up at the thought of his future success. “When I’m there, I hope I can help others achieve their dreams, too. I believe that a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle” he says.