12 Lessons from SA’s Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs 2018

Updated on 1 August 2018

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12 Lessons from SA's Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs 2018 | SME South Africa

SME South Africa continues to be fortunate enough to bear witness to the impressive efforts of women entrepreneurs who are not only successfully building innovative businesses that employ thousands, but are also leading the way for the future of female entrepreneurship on the African continent.

In 12 captivating quotes from inspirational businesswomen, role models and activists​, we pay tribute to women entrepreneurship, leadership and success.

1. Play your part – “It has always been about making sure that other young black women like myself know that it can be done. That you can grow up in the dusty streets of Phokeng, get yourself in the tech industry and most importantly add value and change the narrative. You need to get yourself into the conversations, understand why certain decisions are being made and be bold enough to challenge some of those decisions.” – Boitumelo (Tumi) Menyatswe, ecosystem manager Silicon Cape, a Cape Town-based non-profit organisation bringing together tech entrepreneurs, developers, investors and other stakeholders. 

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Whenever people hate or discriminate, the only thing that we can fall back on is our knowledge and experience

2. Don’t wait – “Women have been brought up to believe that it’s more polite to wait to be asked. Women wait to be asked out on a date, they wait to be invited to dance and they wait for someone to ask to marry them. This carries over to the workplace, where women wait to be noticed or to be asked and then they become increasingly frustrated”. – Donna Rachelson, businesswoman, branding and marketing specialist and author. Lessons for female entrepreneurs in new book ‘What women can learn from men in business’.

Womens Month Quotes 2018
Top row: Lynette Ntuli and Boitumelo Menyatswe. Middle row: Benji Coetzee and Wendy Luhabe. Bottom row: Lethabo Motsoaledi and Rapelang Rabana.

3. Practice fearlessness – “We have been brought up to believe that wanting to be rich is somehow evil, negative, makes you greedy. We need to change that mindset, the reality is that when you start a business it’s to make money and we need to be unapologetic about it. I am not proposing of course that we start to make money by any means and at any cost. You need to be mindful of the environment that you operate in, you need to be mindful of the society that you operate in.” – Polo Leteka, founder of IDF Managers, which launched in 2008 and invests exclusively in women entrepreneurs.

4. Stay focused – “Whenever people hate or discriminate, the only thing that we can fall back on is our knowledge and experience. We should always make sure that that’s on par because then people can’t doubt you.” – Lethabo Motsoaledi is the co-founder and co-CEO of the Cape Town-based disruptive intelligence innovation studio, Motsoaledi & West (M&W).

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5. Take your seat at the table – “Women are considered less technical than men and often get excluded from the conversation around technology. This, paired with trying to pitch a disruptive platform in the logistics industry (male dominated), is difficult. This exclusion often leads women to not pursue this ambition. However, I consistently focus on mastering this area; to earn my seat at the table. Credibility and perseverance supercedes gender in my belief.” – Benji Coetzee, founder of the online logistics platform, EmptyTrips.

6. Practice courage – “I would say courage has possibly been critical to my success. I believe that courage enabled me to take on responsibilities that were way beyond my age and possibly experience, as a result, this positioned me for leadership roles early in my life, in a variety of large institutions. Courage is very much related to one’s self esteem, sense of worth, self beliefs and overall attitude towards life in general. If all of these are healthy, we are likely to find enough courage to stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zone.” – Wendy Luhabe is considered one of Africa’s most powerful business leaders. She spoke on courage at the 2017 Leaderex conference. 

“Stop shrinking yourself to fit places you’ve outgrown”

7. Lean in – “I want to see more women seeing leadership and innovation and being creators as a space that is welcoming to them.” – Afua Osei, founded and runs She Leads Africa, a social enterprise that is aimed at advancing female entrepreneurship on the African continent and the diaspora. 

8. Break stereotypes – “Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do. If you want to do something, go ahead and do it without fear that you will be judged for doing something traditionally male. Stereotypes are made to be broken. For me it was never about proving people wrong. I got on with what I wanted to do, and because I had the support of my family and friends I never really worried about “haters” per se. I’ve always said that I got to where I am based on the fact that I’m open to opportunity. I may not know how to do something, but I’ll give it a shot and that’s normally how the best things come to fruition.” – Pippa Tshabalala is one of the country’s foremost gaming thought leaders – she is a gaming writer, blogger, speaker and reviewer with a MA in 3D animation. Tshabalala wrote about the misconceptions that she herself continues to face and is fighting to overcome as a woman in the industry. 

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9. Focus on the work – “I celebrate my success but I don’t allow myself to get caught up in the “I’ve made it” syndrome. I keep it moving because there’s so much more to be done and achieved” – 27-year-old Allegro Dinkwanyane is well on her way to becoming one of the biggest names in media and public relations. She is the founder of a 100% black-owned public relations company, Orgella Media.

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10. Grow – “Stop shrinking yourself to fit places you’ve outgrown” – Lynette Ntuli is founding director and CEO of Innate Investment Solutions, a property, asset and infrastructure development and solutions firm.

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Ask yourself, what do you have the potential to offer that is so unique and compelling, that is so helpful that no computer can replace you, no one can outsource you

11. Create meaning – “Leadership-wise I’m more of an inspirer – the team motivator and vision evangelist – than a good manager. I typically employ people who are passionate about what we are doing and why we are doing it and then lead by stoking this passion through sharing where the business is going and what changes we are making on the ground with the products we are developing. People need a sense of purpose – it fuels effort and makes the hard work worthwhile.” – Darlene Menzies is a pioneer in the South African tech space, an innovator and serial entrepreneur. She is the founder and CEO of Finfind, an online aggregator of lenders and funding solution offering access to finance for small businesses, which is backed by the Department of Small Business Development.

12. Honour your experiences – “I believe this is the primary source of competitive advantage today – your perspective, YOU are the innovation! Ask yourself, what do you have the potential to offer that is so unique and compelling, that is so helpful that no computer can replace you, no one can outsource you. Figure that out, master that one thing and you will be further along the journey than most people.” – Rapelang Rabana is a computer scientist, tech entrepreneur, and is now chief digital officer at BCX, a ICT company. 

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