If you’re a woman entrepreneur or business owner and you’re looking for inspiration, look no farther than these seven women entrepreneurs.
FIND YOUR PASSION
Nthabiseng Nti Ramaboa, affectionately known as “Chef Nti”, has risen to fame as a celebrity chef and TV personality through her unique dishes which celebrate South Africa’s culinary heritage.
“It looks easy and fun but it’s a lot of work – when you’re working back to back days with crazy hours you have to love it because that’s what will drive you. My key challenge in fact is trying to find a balance between working and trying to preserve my natural love for cooking. I would like to keep my relationship with food fresh, so I pick the jobs I do wisely.”
MAKE A CONTRIBUTION
THULI SIBEKO co-founded Anglo African Events (AAE) in 2005 and then went on to co-found
@girlsinvent, which is an initiative dedicated to initiating programmes designed to empower, educate and mentor girls about the ICT sector, and launch @NEXTgenZA.
“Running a business is hard work; you are responsible for so many elements from finding the right staff to managing cash flow and sourcing new business. When we launched 13 years ago, we were fortunate that clients wanted to spend money on events and activations, and our business did relatively well. When the first recession of 2008 hit, marketing budgets were slashed, and we had to be clever, so we restructured the business and our strategy. The timing was great. The one thing that I have learned in running a business is that you need to evolve with the ever-changing economic landscape. Things can change overnight; you just need to be resilient.
“I always wanted to use AAE as a vehicle to empower the youth and girls through the projects we work on. The business has somewhat evolved and we are now focusing on creating events with a purpose.
“We are on a drive to make a global contribution to youth and girl empowerment. Young people are the future and it’s up to us to provide them with the necessary tools and resources for them to take ownership and contribute towards social and economic growth.”
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
SHAHEEN RAJABALLY is the founding owner of Natura Sugars, the only truly unrefined sugar available in South Africa. She launched Natura Sugars into the highly competitive market three years ago, and now sells her range of unrefined sugars in leading retailers nationwide.
“Believe in your product. I have always been convinced that the superior taste, quality and health benefits associated with our sugars would win consumers’ hearts. I also believe that people across all economic walks of life should be given the opportunity to consume the best quality products.
“However, entering the sugar category which is so well-established was a big challenge. On one side, the industry is dominated by large producers and on the other hand, most people believed that the cheaper the sugar, the better. In addition, the range launched amidst the banting craze. As a result, it was critical to devise an educational campaign to convey our key message that, ‘not all sugars are created equal,’ and therefore, not all sugars are bad for you.
“In order to convince consumers to change a lifetime habit of using white or standard brown sugar (which they perceive as better, but which is not) required perseverance but also tactical planning from professionals in marketing. Creating awareness and educating the public was vital with the launch of Natura Sugars. We have and continue to do this with a strong social media and print media presence. I have a PR Agency generating coverage as well as a social media team that assists me. As a retail product, we also have a strong focus on in-store promotions.
“When it comes to the retail industry, it is crucial to keep abreast of changes in legislation, like labelling regulations, import rules, among others. Research and don’t be afraid to ask mentors in the industry.
“Having a competent team with specific roles assigned will ensure all aspects of running the business are covered. As such, I am able to delegate tasks as required.”
PLAN AND REVIEW
KATE SHEPHERD is the founding owner and creative director of Something Different and Something Desired, specialising in décor, design and the creative conceptualisation as well as execution of very big events. She managed to launch her business using just “her own funds 13 years ago.
“A business mentor is so helpful; mostly in supporting you and guiding you down the path you are already headed, and helping you look out for pitfalls. Be humble and accept this advice from someone you look up to and respect what they have achieved. Being young I was stupid enough to ignore advice and think I knew it all, this almost sank my business. As soon as I realised how much benefit help was, it changed the shape of my business.
“Never give up, no matter what people tell you. Being both a woman and young, you will constantly be told you are not good enough, that you could be doing better by studying. You will have so many things said to put you off your dream. Please don’t listen to these naysayers (even if they are just in your own head).
“Be willing to take personal and lifestyle knocks to put back into the business. Without financial backing, it’s hard to see money come in and not spend it, but it’s vital you put the money back into the business and grow the asset instead of spending it all.
“Controlling the money that comes in to grow a business is very hard work and will need proper self-control. Some businesses make large profits very quickly, but in a slow growth, high risk, seasonal business like mine, it’s been trial and error to get to a place where we could finally a turn profits and have a reliable income stream to support the team and company size we have. Many businesses have come and gone; managing overheads, size and seasonality is our greatest test. The financial reward is in constant, stable success for a period of time, not just in the first year.
“Have a plan. This is the most important. Understand what you need and when, how long you are going to stick at goals, set yourself achievable – but stretching – targets and have quite an important life and business co-plan, for six months, one year, five years and 10 years. As a woman, you may want certain personal goals of children or even travel. Plan these in and review regularly, these will all help you stay focused and also proud of when you do achieve your targets. Even ten years ago I had a ten-year plan, and although not everything works the way you plan, if you put it down in writing and commit to it, you are far more likely to get there. Even at a young age, clear vision was drilled into me by my mentors and I believe, made me more focused in creating a business and not just pursuing my dreams of something creative, but building it.”
STAY ON TOP OF THE NUMBERS
MEGAN ELOFF, who runs The Yard in Cape Town, with its quirky Dogs Bollocks brand drawing the crowds for their limited supply of 50 drool-worthy burgers every evening, grew up in the restaurant her mother owned and developed her love for cooking at a young age.
“The reality of running your own food business is that you soon become swamped doing everything but the cooking. I believe I have to know how to do everything with my eyes closed before I can pass on the duties, and as the numbers are the most important element of a business I’ve found myself completely submerged in running the books.
“I also spend a lot of her time ensuring that managers and staff are following the systems I’ve put in place, and updating and evolving them as the business grows.”
BUILD A GREAT TEAM
A qualified pharmacist and an MBA, with no real link to the hotel industry, JEANETTE SCHWEGMAN had a vision to create a stylish sanctuary for discerning corporate and leisure travellers. And so, in 2006 the Clico Boutique Hotel was born.
“I place a high value on teamwork and the development of good working relationships. At pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly I absolutely loved HR, working with the team, identifying talent and listening to people’s stories.
“Today I really do have the greatest team – it’s a team that I can rely on to provide the service levels that our guests deserve.
“I really get a thrill out of creating something, changing something, watching people grow and develop … and I love being part of a team where we share in the success and take it on the chin together when things don’t go right. I’ve said to the team we can always be proud when we’ve done our very best … whether there is a positive outcome or a failure … as long as we’ve tried.”
TOP TIPS FOR SUCCESS
Director of PR and Talent Management agency,, FABRIZIA DEGLI ESPOSTI won in the Emerging Entrepreneur Category at the Regional Business Woman of the Year Awards this year. Here she shares her top tips for business success:
- Be organised from the beginning – Have everything in place before you open doors; your logo, business cards, website, registration of your business, etc. Then you don’t have to play catch-up.
- Consult a business coach – Get advice, don’t expect to know everything yourself.
- Get the right team – What’s on paper is not necessarily important. Find people who will be a good fit for your business and share your work ethic.
- Put in the time and don’t give up – Accept that success doesn’t happen overnight, and you will make mistakes along the way.
- Stay in your lane – Don’t get hung up on what others are doing, focus on YOUR speciality.
- Be open to change and evolving as a business – Times move, and you have to keep up if you want to survive in your industry.