You have a long history of championing the cause of entrepreneurship, particularly amongst women, and you act as the Jury President for the African leg of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards. Why do you believe this is so important?
I have always been interested in the economic upliftment of women – it’s something I feel very passionately about. I strongly believe that when we empower women to be financially independent, we make an investment in the community because women most often plough their financial resources back into the communities in which they live.
What I like about the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award is that it includes social impact, along with creativity and financial sustainability, as one of the criteria. In so doing it recognises remarkable female entrepreneurs who are also making a difference in their communities.
We need people like this all over the world, but especially in Africa and South Africa.
What do you believe South African female entrepreneurs need in order to succeed?
Very often, entrepreneurs tend to duplicate similar kinds of businesses but this makes it more difficult to differentiate themselves. I think that entrepreneurs, whether they are men or women, need to be unique and have the courage to depart from the mainstream.
They need to follow their passion instead of simply copying what others are doing in business. And they also need to exchange experiences so that they can learn from each other.
You were among the first generation of female entrepreneurs and remain one of the country’s leading examples of successful women entrepreneurs. Where do you continue to draw your inspiration from?
I’m inspired by ideas – they have always been the catalyst that drives me to do new things. For me, ideas are where everything starts. They put me in touch with like-minded people and remind me about the importance of being alive and making things happen.
What advice would you give to aspirant entrepreneurs?
In addition to what I’ve already suggested about the importance of being unique and following your own passion instead of copying what others are doing, I would advise people to ask for advice, to seek out mentors and, above all, to persevere.
Make no mistake, starting a business is no picnic so you have to have resilience. You also need to remember that you are bound not to succeed in some things and that this is not necessarily a reflection on you. Failure happens to all entrepreneurs at some point or another – the important thing is not to personalise failures but rather to take them as an opportunity to do things differently.
They give you the tools to approach the next challenge with increased wisdom.