Three businesswomen from Khayelitsha joined forces to collaborate and found that they could grow their individual businesses.
Xoliswa Tsholoba and sisters, Wente and Letticia Ntaka, founded the Women in Business Zone (the Zone) so that they can work together and bid for larger-scale projects.
The trio’s collaborative approach was behind them becoming the first black women to install fibre-optic cables in Khayelitsha.
Their first contract for 500m of trenching and pipe-laying in 2017. It was so well executed that it led to them being contracted for more work in Khayelitsha and Eersterivier.
The Zone employed approximately 50 people on the project.
According to them, it made sense to team up because they saw many businesses fail because of a lack of support. This is why they’ve collaborated to launch the Zone, they explain. “There’s nowhere you can talk about your problems and get advice from people who are walking the same road as you,” said the women.
The organisation now has five members, and has been instrumental in a further four local women setting up their own businesses. Wente, 48, Letticia, 45, and Xoliswa, 55, were selected to participate in the Small Business Academy (SBA) at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB).
The SBA is a sponsored programme that takes 30 to 40 township entrepreneurs a year through a nine-month course offering training in business fundamentals, networking opportunities and mentorship whereby each participant is matched with an alumnus of the USB’s MBA programme.
The three women agreed that supporting and learning lessons from each other has not only strengthened their self-esteem as businesswomen but also contributed to growing their individual businesses.
Here are what they’ve learned through collaboration:
“We have come to understand that greed is not the solution to building our businesses. Good business values mean that when one has a problem, we sit down and discuss it to find a solution,” says Tsholoba.
Tsholoba explains: “Each of us has specific skills – one might be good at filling out tender documents and another at compiling quotes – and so we sit down together and work out how to approach a project.”
Letticia Ntaka, who has a catering business, says: “There are a lot of challenges for women in business, and we found that working together, sharing ideas, supporting and advising each other, just makes it easier.”
She says their group approach strengthens tender and project bids, and applications to government for support such as training or funding.
“As a woman in business, you can’t just focus on only one thing – you must always be on the lookout for opportunities and be willing to change direction if what you are doing is not working,” says Letticia.
She explains their collaborative efforts: while she focuses on catering, her sister Wente on cleaning and Xoliswa on construction, if a big project comes along, all will multi-task and pitch in to deliver to the client’s needs. This can even mean one of the women providing bridging finance to get another’s contract off the ground, or lending equipment to each other to save costs on hiring.
The members meet monthly to exchange ideas and advice. They also set up their own training workshops and mentoring for other women in business in the area and bring lessons back to the group from workshops and training they’ve attended outside the township.
Source: African News Agency