This Women’s Month SME South Africa will celebrate South African women entrepreneurs, pioneers and innovators. Join us as we highlight their successes, sacrifices and struggles. Follow the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at #SMEWomenInnovate.
SME South Africa has featured women entrepreneurs who are not only successfully building truly innovative businesses that employ thousands of people, but are also leading the way for the future of female entrepreneurship on the African continent.
As entrepreneur and young business leader, Lynette Ntuli said in an interview, young South African women may be faced with different struggles to the women of 1956, but they have equal responsibility to make similar strides. Ntuli is the founding director and CEO of Innate Investment Solutions, a property, asset and infrastructure development and solutions firm.
This Women’s Month we take a look at 13 pieces of invaluable advice shared by more women leaders in business.
1. Do It Now – “Being a pioneering woman is [about] not waiting until you’re rich or famous or waiting for all of your stars to be aligned.” – Lynette Ntuli, founding director and CEO of Innate Investment Solutions, a property, asset and infrastructure development and solutions firm.
2. There Will Be Pressure – “We all push ourselves. Look, it’s a positive thing to me. It’s positive as long as you don’t allow it to get to a point where it creates negativity. [For me] it’s always been about pushing myself, doing something different. I want to make sure that I am [doing] the best that I can. Yes, I do think that sometimes it’s self-imposed because it’s like I really really have to do this or that. We also have the additional pressure as women that it’s not only about us, but it’s also about others because the world is still a place where [if] Siza messes up they are not going to say Siza, they are going to say women. So there is that additional pressure to just constantly strive to do the best that you can. – Siza Mzimela, founder of the first majority black- and woman-owned airline in South Africa, Fly Blue Crane.
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. Take Pride In Being A Job Creator – “I have had opportunities to work in the corporate world, but I’ve chosen not to at this point. I believe I can have far more impact creating jobs, helping women advance, and making a difference to society as an entrepreneur.” – Khanyi Dhlomo, founder of the 100% black-owned media company, Ndalo Media. The company publishes award-winning print and digital women’s lifestyle magazines, DestinyConnect, Destiny Magazine, DestinyMan, ELLE and ELLE Decoration South Africa.
5. Support Other Female Entrepreneurs – ”The biggest issue women entrepreneurs face is they don’t have access to finance and they don’t have access to markets. If they do get lucky and get finance they don’t have the support to make sure they’re nurtured in their startup phase [so] that they have a better chance of succeeding. So to me the key ingredient is making sure you walk the journey with the entrepreneur and plug in wherever you are required [to] in order to make them successful.” – Zizipho Nyanga, CEO of Old Mutual’s Masisizane Fund.
6. Deal With Negativity Constructively – “When I get negative feedback, I usually write it down, because there might be something in it that’s true. Feedback is a gift, whether it’s positive or negative. When people are giving me feedback, even the people I work with, I listen and make a mental note and when I’m alone or in a calmer space, I revisit what they said and ask myself if it’s true. When someone gives you negative constructive feedback, they just want you to succeed and be better. – Claire Mawisa, investigative TV reporter for current affairs television series, Carte Blanche and entrepreneur, she is the founder of Code Teen, an organisation empowering young women.
7. Never Stop Learning – “I think that you actually need to allow yourself to be okay with the fact that you don’t know everything, because that opens you up to learning and to learning quickly, and that is what has differentiated me from others. I’m willing to learn. I’m not a master and I don’t fully understand the depth of particular functions, but I allow myself the permission to say “I don’t know, but I will learn” – that’s very important. I think just tenacity and committing to putting your head down and committing yourself to working hard is very important. You can’t get into anything without really opening yourself up to the idea that it’s going to be long and hard, and that you need to push to get through to the end. – Nozipho Mbanjwa, award-winning business journalist on one of Africa’s leading news channels, CNBC Africa and an entrepreneur.
8. Follow Your Passion – “Your purpose becomes your passion. Whatever it is – children, community, family – it is what gets you out of bed every morning and keeps you moving forward, through good times and bad.” – Peggy Sue Khumalo, head of Public Sector and Black Business Portfolio for Investec Group and Investec Corporate and Institutional Banking.
9. 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.
10. Keep Going – “You will need a lot of perseverance to keep going. No matter how prepared or smart you are, the real test is the ability to keep going. As an entrepreneur, you will give and give and give so much of yourself, and after that… give some more. If you don’t know why you are doing it (which comes back to understanding of self), you will battle to make the kind of long-term commitment that will see you through the challenges.” – Rapelang Rabana, techpreneur and World Entrepreneurship Forum’s Entrepreneur for the World.
11. Love What You Do – “Stick to your craft, do it well and prepare for the big time (like a buyout) even if it is not in your plans, remain ready, which means keep your backyard clean (admin), serve clients you are proud of and do work that you are proud of. Keep the passion alive – it’s that authentic energy and the love for your craft that they are actually buying.” – Neliswa Fente and Raelene Rorke Clarke launched SpringAge, a youth-led innovation consultancy which helps businesses better serve their markets.
12. Leave A Legacy – “This is a truly South African company. It is built on a model where everybody works together for its benefit. We are still true to our original model. We send in highly skilled professionals, get them to work with young people to carry things forward and leave skills behind. Motheo believes that there is room for everybody to benefit and grow in our country.” – Dr Thandi Ndlovu, founder of Motheo Construction, one of the country’s leading social housing developers.
13. Inspire Others – “Leadership is all about providing a vision and a direction for the organisation and the ability to inspire people to go there with you.” – Nonkululeko Gobodo who is CEO and head of leadership consulting of Nkululeko Leadership Consulting, an organisation that focuses on leadership development.
14. Use Diversity As Your Strength – “You want diversity in all of that talent. It is, I think, a cardinal sin to have people that look like you, who have the same qualifications as you, who are the same age as you, the same experiences as you. Really, diversity is a competitive advantage. It’s actually interesting to me because in this country we tend to relegate diversity to something on a score card when it is something we come to the table naturally with. If we are going to tackle a problem, if you have very good people tackling the same problem from different perspectives, we’re going to end up with a richer and more creative solution. And it’s that diversity that actually sets us apart from others in our business.” – Nicky Newton-King, CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).