‘I am constantly balancing the needs and vision of the company with those of my team members’ – Raksha Mahabeer

'I am constantly balancing the needs and vision of the company with those of my team members' - Raksha Mahabee
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'I am constantly balancing the needs and vision of the company with those of my team members' - Raksha MahabeeCompany Profile
Name of company: SummerTime
Years in existence: 9 (in Feb 2016)
Position: The Beat (co-owner, creative and business development)
Location:  Randburg, Johannesburg

Can you tell us a little bit about your company and what you do? 
SummerTime is a vibrant creative design studio. We deliver graphic design, brand development and marketing support services for both SMEs and corporate clients.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background – personal, educational and professional?
I was born in Durban, KZN. I grew up in a beautiful small community on the KZN South Coast, called Isipingo Beach. I spent my childhood barefoot and care-free living along the warm Indian Ocean coast. I went to government schools and spent most of my time outdoors, playing with friends.

After completing school, I took a year off and picked apples on a kibbutz in Israel. It was a wonderful experience for learning more about myself as I became a young adult.

I studied a Media and Communications and Drama and Performance bachelor’s degree at the then, University of Natal. I began my career working in marketing for a prominent, luxury South African retail jewellery brand and thereafter, I did a stint in the corporate world. It was there where I met my now business partner. From there, SummerTime was born, and the rest is history.

“You may need to pivot or change direction a few times before you find your sweet spot”

What were some of the obstacles you faced starting out, and how did you overcome them?
Getting the business’ compliance in order and confidently setting pricing/rates and gaining access to markets were early challenges. We overcame these challenges by getting an understanding of what was happening in the market. We’ve built a great entrepreneurial network and continue to learn from each other on a regular basis.

How many people does your company employ? 
Currently, five people.

What is your overall vision for your business?
Our vision is to live, inspire and deliver extraordinary creativity at exceptional service standards with a strong-minded focus on our social and global responsibility.

What do you think it takes to establish and run a successful business in South Africa? 
You have to solve a problem, ascertain if there is a market for what you are selling. Too often, I see entrepreneurs trying to sell people something that they don’t want or need. It helps to have a strong support system. The early days can be rough and it helps to have people in your corner who believe in your vision. Get the basics right, register your business and get all your compliance [requirments] in order, doing this early will assist greatly in accessing opportunities.

How did you finance your business, how difficult or easy was the process?  
SummerTime was self-funded. We kept overheads minimal and didn’t draw a salary during tough times. Without a strong support system, this can be extremely hard to cope with. The lack of funding also meant that our growth came at a much later stage and it happened much slower. We were happy with this as we wanted to keep risks low. If your business requires rapid growth, you may want to adopt a different route.

When did you know that you were an entrepreneur? 
I only truly felt like an entrepreneur after being in business for about two years. When I took on the responsibility of hiring additional members and evolved the business’ service offering in line with market needs. It was only at this time that I felt like I was steering a ship and shaping a business to be something impactful.

How would you describe your leadership style?  
I consider my leadership style to be democratic. In providing direction, implementing plans and motivating people, I am constantly balancing the needs and vision of the company with those of my team members.

Our business is built on a strong culture of honesty, professionalism, trust, exploration, competent and intelligent people, broad-minded thinking, fun and creativity.

I am also a visionary, bursting with ideas, and I love to adapt my creative mind to any clients’ objectives and sink my teeth into the challenges they offer.

What three pieces of advice would you offer young entrepreneurs starting out today?
1. Just Do It! Don’t be paralysed by fear and procrastination, just go out there and do it.
2. Be flexible and resilient – in the early years, many things will not go according to plan, be humble and flexible. You may need to pivot or change direction a few times before you find your sweet spot, be open to this. Resilience is key, there will be frustrating times. Self-motivation is very important so you do not give up.
3. Get your house in order! Register your business, get all your compliance in order, adhere to SARS requirements, get a BBBEE certificate and keep all of this on file. Having this on hand will open up a whole world of opportunities for your business.

What do you wish you had known starting out? 
That I don’t have to figure everything out for myself, South Africa’s culture of Ubuntu is alive and kicking. Ask for help where needed. Identify successful entrepreneurs who you admire, get in touch with them and find out how they did it.
Put systems and processes in place so that you maintain your standards and so that work can get done when you are not around.

And finally, do you believe in luck, hard work or both? 
I believe in both. The 80/20 rules states that:
“By the numbers it means that 80 percent of your outcomes come from 20 percent of your inputs.”

I believe in working as hard (and smart) as you can on putting things in place for your business. Then leave a percentage of that up to chance/luck/the universe. Sometimes, we just meet the right people at the right time who have a precise need for what we are selling. Hard work and luck – definitely a combination!

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Lebohang Thulo
Lebohang Thulo
Lebohang Thulo is the editor of SME South Africa. She enjoys keeping up with the country’s exciting and fast developing entrepreneurship ecosystem. You can find her at @lelele3

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