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Women Who Lead: Bonnie Cooper And Esna Colyn On Wearing The Mantle Of Leadership

Recently I had the privilege of speaking to two inspirational leaders who happen to be women. Here is what Bonnie Cooper and Esna Colyn shared on wearing the mantle of leadership.

Dirk Coetsee

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“It is the ultimate luxury to combine passion and contribution. It is also a very clear path to happiness.” – Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook)

Arnold Schwarzenegger, in that very interesting and powerful German accent of his, gave a very thoughtful and inspiring answer to a female listeners’ question during a Tim Ferris Podcast. The essence of her question was about how a woman should go about the very challenging task of being a leader.

In this writing I will abbreviate and paraphrase his answer as it was a very long powerful lesson in politics, history and business – “Angela Merkel does not think about being a woman when leading Germany it is about the person and having strong leadership characteristics. I am sure that Catherine the great of Russia did not think of being a woman as she led her country, it is about the person.”

Related: Why Donna Rachelson Believes The Secret To Your Business Success Lies With Women

“The Terminators” answer lends more weight to the theory that leadership has very little if not nothing to do with gender, background, or position and much more to do with having a clear vision, inspiring others, and being an example that others want to follow. Leadership is about being passionate about what you do and leaving other leaders behind by adding value to them and serving them.

Recently I had the privilege of speaking to two inspirational leaders who happen to be women. Here is what Bonnie Cooper and Esna Colyn shared on wearing the mantle of leadership. 

“Leaders create energy”

Taking on the dual roles of being the Chief executive of BPD Advertising Agency and the Chief Marketing Officer of Roman’s Pizza requires a vast amount of energy, and Bonnie Cooper has bucket loads. Creating an energetic environment and an inspirational atmosphere is what true leaders do. She pointed out to me that high levels of enthusiasm and drive are critical factors when success is contemplated.

She asked me to emphasise that she has many flaws but immediately added that the very same flaws can open the door to opportunities when you admit them and put in the hard work to change. This positive attitude towards personal transformation can ignite inspiration in other team members who are willing to improve themselves.

Bonnie admitted to being an extreme introvert. Some see introversion as a detractor of performance especially within roles where public speaking, constant group engagement and corporate presentations are the rule and not the exception. She is however one of many examples of people who has obliterated this assumption. The determination in her eyes, the expansive body language and the confidence in her voice provides undisputable testimony to the fact that she has purposefully evolved her introversion into being an influential presence.

Leadership is about character, being the model of behaviour that you desire for your team to adopt. Bonnie is an inspiring example of how constant change and a focus on self- improvement can help others to leave their comfort zones behind to become leaders.

She strongly believes in empowerment and in part sees that as creating an environment where you as team member have no option but to venture outside of the self-imposed boundaries of your own comfort zone.

Related: Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs

“Respect is all that matters”

This statement is part of her e-mail signature and part of her belief system, and in having interacted with her I can honestly say, part of her actions. She will admit when she was wrong and show you the respect of a sincere apology.

Bonnie respects her team members by truly having an open-door policy and as a team member you are given the freedom to make mistakes, if you own them and fix them.

“A boss will blame and take credit, a leader will give credit and take the blame.”

The above quote alludes to the huge level of responsibility on a leaders’ shoulders and the high level of character that a leader must maintain to win and keep the trust of her team members. You can trust Bonnie to say what she thinks, to apologise when she is wrong, to roll up her sleeves shoulder to shoulder with her team when the hard work needs to be done and to give credit when and where it is due.

ESNA COLYN – CEO OF IMBALIE BEAUTY

esna-colyn

Question the status quo

A  leadership lesson that Esna has learnt is to understand her business by constantly questioning the status quo through the following questions:

  1. What are you passionate about?
  2. What is the economic engine that drives your business?
  3. What do you want to be the best in the world at?

Related: 10 Successful SA Women Entrepreneurs’ Top Advice On Balancing Work And Family

Key leadership principles

She highlights the importance of asking for help and to seek guidance as a leader and to never stop to read and learn.

Strong leaders entertain strong beliefs and Esnas’ belief system is applied in her business through the following key principles:

  • Work with and grow passionate people of great character and integrity.
  • Bring people into the organisation that are stronger than yourself.
  • Aspire to change the world and leave a legacy.

She does not hesitate to mention that to consistently apply the above principles are tough. The CEO of Imbalie believes that authenticity is the most effective vehicle of communication when it comes to motivating all key stakeholders around the purpose of the company.

Inspiration

Esna sees the late Nelson Mandela as an inspirational leader who’s example she looks up to. She is proudly South African and aspires to the changes that he facilitated in our country and in the world. Speaking of inspiration and aspiration the quote that Esna most resonates with comes from Joshua 1:9 – “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage, do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Imbalies’ theme for 2017 is “#LIFT OFF“ and she sees all franchisees as leaders and entrepreneurs whom in unison with the organisations’ leadership must make this theme a reality.

Dirk Coetsee is a Business Leadership coach for start-ups and established entrepreneurs. He is also qualified Master Life coach and assists individuals to get “unstuck” in their lives and careers.You can contact Dirk at: dirk@dirkcoetseeglobal.com

Support for Women Entrepreneurs

Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs

Female entrepreneurs are growing in numbers, but without access to appropriate funding many start-ups will find it difficult to grow their businesses, regardless of whether there’s a man or woman at the helm. Fortunately, access to funds for female entrepreneurs is improving thanks to government and private enterprises.

Nicole Crampton

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In fact, The Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) noted that 72% of micro-enterprises and 40% of small enterprises are currently owned by women. Government and private enterprises have put programmes and funds in place aimed at empowering the women of South Africa.

Starting a business is always a challenging objective, what makes it more challenging is trying to find funding to get your innovative idea of the ground.

Content in this guide

  1. The Isivande Women’s Fund (IWF)
  2. Women Entrepreneurial Fund (WEF)
  3. Business Partners Women in Business Fund
  4. IDF Managers Funding
  5. Enablis Acceleration Fund
  6. The National Empowerment Fund (NEF)
  7. Absa Women Empowerment Fund
  8. The Special Projects and Programmes Unit (SPP)
  9. Women in Oil and Energy South Africa (WOESA)

Funds and Financial Assistance

Here are seven funds and financial assistance programmes as well as two resources for women entrepreneurs in South Africa.

The Isivande Women’s Fund (IWF)

isivande-womens-fund

Isivande Women’s Fund

This government fund aims at accelerating women’s economic empowerment by supplying cost effective, user friendly and responsive finance. The IWF offers support services to improve the success of your business.

It targets businesses that are starting up, expanding, rehabilitating, franchising and those that need bridging finance.

The aim of the fund is to create self-sustaining black- and female-owned businesses by offering primary financial and non-financial support.

How to Apply for IWF Funding

Female-owned companies need to meet the following criteria to be eligible:

  1. Your business must be operational for 6 months.
  2. Your business requires early stage capital for expansions and growth.
  3. 50% plus one share owned and managed by women.
  4. Your business requires potential growth and commercial sustainability.
  5. Your business must improve social impact with employment creation.

Contact IWF for funding

  • Businesses that are eligible and need funding between R30 000 and R2 million can submit their application.
  • Apply to the IWF through the IDF website or call +27 (11) 772 7910.
  • Download application forms from www.idf.co.za.

For more information on start-up funding visit this guide.

Women Entrepreneurial Fund (WEF)

The Women Entrepreneurial Fund

The Women Entrepreneurial Fund

The Women Entrepreneurial Fund (WEF) was established by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) to support access to entrepreneurial funds for women business owners. R400 million has been set aside for women-owned businesses.

“We need to increase the extent to which women own and manage existing and new enterprises by improving their access to economic resources and infrastructure,” says Meryl Mamathuba, Head of Development Funds Department at the IDC.

“This strategy is necessary to create viable opportunities that facilitate sustainable development and empowerment.”

How to Apply for WEF Funding

Women-owned businesses must meet the following requirements to qualify for WEF funding:

  • Businesses must have at least 50% women shareholding.
  • Applications can be for start-ups, expansions or acquisitions.
  • You’ll need a solid, fundable business plan to start or expand within an identified market.
  • Your business plan will need to include financial plans detailing: capital expenditure, working capital requirements, resourcing and operational involvement.
  • You can also be a shareholder with a direct or indirect total net asset base of less than R15 million.

The following sectors are excluded from eligibility to the WEF:

  • Franchising
  • pure acquisitions
  • construction
  • import and export
  • retail
  • primary agriculture
  • property development and consulting services such as recruitment and engineering.

Contact WEF for funding

You can find out more information and access the application form from the IDC website: http://www.idc.co.za/.

For more information on IDC visit this article.

Business Partners Women in Business Fund

Business Partners Women in Business Fund

Business Partners Women in Business Fund

The Business Partners Limited Women in Business Fund is focused on assisting women entrepreneurs with starting, expanding or purchasing an existing business. The Women in Business Fund is aimed at helping women start their entrepreneurial journey on an even footing.

The fund aims to:

  • Increase access to finance for women entrepreneurs
  • Invest in viable women-owned businesses
  • Assist in the growth and expansion of women-owned businesses
  • Contribute towards an increase in the number of successful women entrepreneurs and inspire young females in choosing entrepreneurship as a career option.
  • Facilitate the creation of new jobs and decreasing unemployment and poverty among the citizens of South Africa.

Do You Qualify for Business Partners Women in Business Fund funding?

Women-owned companies need to meet the following criteria to be eligible:

  • Businesses with a minimum of 50% women shareholding.
  • Women entrepreneurs, who wish to start, expand or buy an existing business.
  • Women in operations and management roles in the business.

How to Apply for Business Partners Women in Business Fund funding?

To apply for financing from the Business Partners Women in Business Fund, you will need to submit your business plan to one of its Fund advisors. You can also send your business plan to enquiries@businesspartners.co.za or deliver it to any one of the fund’s offices located country-wide.

Contact Business Partners Women in Business Fund for funding

If you wish to contact Business Partners for further information you are also welcome to submit a finance enquiry online enquiries@businesspartners.co.za and one of their investment personnel will contact you.


How to Write a Funding Proposal

Knowing how to write a funding proposal properly can make or break your business idea before it even gets off the ground.


IDF Managers Funding

IDF Managers Funding

IDF Managers Funding

The Identity Development Fund is a leading organisation in developing innovative financial products with the added benefit of being integrated with non-financial support. IDF is focused on unlocking value in the entrepreneurial sector through fund management services for institutional and corporate investors.

This fund is divided into multiple sectors, including:

  • Management funds, which are targeted at entrepreneurial SME investment and development.
  • Advisory services on strategy and implementation of a new project, which is targeted at the development of entrepreneurs.

Financial support is structured on a case by case basis and non-financial support is tailored to the needs of businesses during the various stages of growth, as well as the needs of the entrepreneur.

Do You Qualify for IDF Managers Funding?

Your business needs to meet the following criteria to be eligible:

  • Black owned and managed (51% or more); or
  • Black women and managed businesses (51% or more); or
  • Black youth owned and managed (51% or more)

Investment criteria

IDF Managers are focusing on the following industries to help you diversify your portfolio:

  • Manufacturing
  • Wholesale and retail
  • Tourism
  • Agro-processing
  • Mining and infrastructure related services
  • Healthcare services
  • ICT
  • Construction
  • Transport and Logistics
  • Other productive sectors
  • Supply chain linked opportunities

Excluded industries

The following sectors are excluded from eligibility to the IDF Mangers Fund:

  • Speculative real estate
  • Non-commercial ventures (NPO)
  • Businesses deriving revenue from gambling, liquor, military or illegal activities
  • Businesses not socially responsible or adverse to the development of small businesses
  • Agencies
  • Primary farming
  • Replacement finance
  • Professional services

Contact IDF Mangers Fund for funding

To apply for capital, please visit http://www.idf.co.za/entrepreneurs.php# and download the application form at the bottom of the page. Once the application form is completed you can email it to info@idf.co.za.

Related: 10 Tips for Finding Seed Funding

Enablis Acceleration Fund

enablis-acceleration-fund

Enablis Acceleration Fund

The Enablis Acceleration Fund is a partnership between Enablis Financial Corporation SA (Pty) Ltd and Khula Enterprise Finance Limited. It is currently capitalised at R50 million.

Its aim is to improve access to SME early stage funding, while reaching out and supporting SME’s that are developing in remote or rural areas with a view to creating new sustainable jobs that alleviate poverty and reduce unemployment.

This acceleration fund offers equity and debt instruments over loan periods no longer than 60 months.

Do You Qualify for Enablis Acceleration Funding?

Those eligible for this acceleration funding must meet the following criteria:

  • South African SMEs that are accredited by the Enablis Entrepreneurial Network.
  • Black and women entrepreneurs for start-ups and the expansion of a business.
  • SMEs involved in all sectors, specifically ICT, transport, tourism, agriculture and services industry.
  • SMEs that need working capital and or asset finance.

How to Apply for Enablis Acceleration Funding

To become a member and start on your journey with Enablis, visit the Join Enablis section at http://www.enablis.org/ and fill out the application form. You will be contacted by the appropriate chapter manager.

Contact Enablis Acceleration Funding for funding

The contact details for the person in charge of enquires for South Africa are:

  • Name: Ebenise Bester
  • Contact: +27 21 422 0690 (CT)
  • E-mail: bester@enablis.org
  • Address: Suite 202 Sir Lowry Studios, 95 Sir Lowry Road, Cape Town, 8001

Related: Government Funding and Grants for Small Businesses

The National Empowerment Fund (NEF)

The National Empowerment Fund (NEF)

The National Empowerment Fund (NEF)

The National Empowerment Fund is a government agency that is set up to provide capital for black economic empowerment transactions.

Although this isn’t specifically a female-focused entrepreneur fund, it does cater for black women and aims to empower them to become part of the entrepreneur society.

The NEF is a driver and a thought-leader when it comes to promoting and facilitating black economic participation through the provision of financial and non-financial support to black empowered businesses, as well as by promoting a culture of savings and investment among black people.

Do You Qualify for The National Empowerment Funding?

The main investment areas for this fund are construction, information and communication technology and media, as well as food and agro-processing sectors.

While these sectors will be favoured, it doesn’t mean other sectors are not eligible for funding.

This fund is also specifically targeted at BEE candidates and consequently will not be available to other candidates.

How to Apply for the National Empowerment Fund

Whether your business is a start-up or an existing business, every applicant must fill in an application form once you understand the NEF requirements and identify products that suit you. The application serves as a screening document. After this you’ll need to draw up a comprehensive business plan.

Contact the National Empowerment Fund (NEF)

For more information and insights into the fund:

Fore more information on NEF funding visit the guide here.


How To Use Your Business Plan to Get Funding

One reason for developing a business plan is to get outside parties interested in providing capital for a new venture. A good business plan tells an interesting and comprehensive story that an outside party can use to evaluate the viability of a new business concept.


Absa Women Empowerment Fund

absa-women-empowerment-fund

Absa has positioned itself to assist with the empowerment of females by introducing the Women Empowerment Fund. This loan offers a minimum of R50 000 to a maximum of R3 million with a maximum loan of five years and a monthly reducible overdraft.

The Women Empowerment Fund has been designed so that 70% of the loan is paid directly to suppliers and the interest rate is linked to the prime lending rate. The loan will also be structured according to the associated credit risk of the entrepreneur and their business.

If you’re a businesswoman with the skills and expertise to make a success of your business and your loan application has been turned down because you did not have enough security, then you may be eligible for finance though Absa’s Women Empowerment Fund, depending on your businesses’ capability to repay the loan.

Do You Qualify for Absa’s Women Empowerment Fund?

Those eligible for this acceleration funding must meet the following criteria:

  • You are a South African woman permanently residing in South Africa.
  • Your business is a Small to Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) as defined by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) – including new start-ups, existing businesses, franchises and businesses switching from other banks, subject to Absa Credit approval.
  • You do not qualify for a traditional business loan under normal banking criteria due to poor credit records (must be justifiable).
  • The business’s major shareholder (more than 66%) is fully involved in the day-to-day operation of the business.
  • You have the skills and, or, expertise relevant to your business and the industry or sector.
  • You have a well-researched business plan.
  • Your business can show profitability through historical financials or a realistic cash flow forecast.
  • You operate in an approved industry (ask ABSA’s consultants about the sectors and industries that do not qualify).
  • You require repeat loans, but only once the initial loan has been repaid in full.
  • You need a loan of between R50 000 and R3 million with a maximum loan term of five years and monthly reducible overdrafts.
  • You can show evidence of a revenue stream, i.e. letters of intent. (Purchase orders)
  • The main business transactional account is held with Absa; no split banking is allowed.

The following conditions mean you will be unable to receive funding for ABSA’s Women Empowerment Fund:

  • Non-South African citizens
  • Money raising ventures
  • Enrichment
  • All trusts, public companies, section 21 companies
  • Commercial and Residential property finance

How to Apply for Absa’s Women Empowerment Fund

You will find more information and the application form on the website here.

To apply for funding complete the application form and bring it to your nearest Absa branch, along with the relevant supporting documentation listed on the last page of the application form.

Contact the Absa Women Empowerment Fund

For more information and enquiries into the fund contact ABSA on their support centre line: 0860 040 302.

For more information on ABSA Enterprise funding read this guide.

Resources and support

Government and successful women entrepreneurs have realised there is a gap in education for female entrepreneurs and have started to create support programmes where female entrepreneurs can find out exactly what they need to be successful within a specific sector or business. 

The Special Projects and Programmes Unit (SPP)

The Special Projects and Programmes Unit (SPP)

The Special Projects and Programmes Unit (SPP)

The Special Projects and Programmes Unit (SPP) within the Programme Analysis and Development (PAD) of SEDA, has an arm that focuses on projects specifically for women.

The SPP is supporting women so that they are hindered less by negative prevailing socio-cultural attitudes, gender discrimination or bias and personal difficulties.

The Special Projects and Programmes Unit is a platform where women can educate themselves about all the various aspects of becoming an entrepreneur. This resource also provides women with information on additional funding sources.

Contact the Special Projects and Programmes Unit (SPP)

For more information and enquiries into the programme:

Related: Support for Highflying Entrepreneurs from Specialised SEDA Programme

Women in Oil and Energy South Africa (WOESA)

Women in Oil and Energy South Africa

Women in Oil and Energy South Africa

The WOESA Group of businesses is focused on facilitating and promoting business for, and enhancing, the participation of South African women in the oil and energy sector.

WOESA offers services to its member companies, organisations and individuals that focus on developing a knowledge base and building capacity amongst women through education and training.

The group facilitates access to business opportunities and conducts advocacy work for women, by assisting them in drafting legislation and policies. WOESA also aims to assist women with access to funding and investment.

Related: The Dangers Of Crowdfunding With Coolest Cooler Founder Ryan Grepper

WOESA provides specific services to enhance female participation in the oil and energy sector. These services include:

  • Organising workshops and conferences
  • Develop a knowledge base and make it accessible to its members
  • Training
  • Interface between members and business opportunities
  • Networking, lobbying and advocacy
  • Participation in drafting legislation and policies
  • Facilitation of access to finance/funding for business opportunities for women in the oil and energy sector
  • Developing and maintaining an interactive website with information for members only, containing news, legislation, articles, business opportunities, a calendar and more.
  • Recruitment of women in the oil and energy sector.

Contact Women in Oil and Energy South Africa (WOESA)

For more information and enquiries into the programme:

Women are becoming a force to be reckoned with in the entrepreneurial world. To assist them in growing and reaching new markets, government and private business have created funds and resources designed for women.

These funds and resources will help women entrepreneurs to become more successful by providing them with both financial and non-financial support.

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This Podcast Interview Will Inspire Every Business Women

Fumani Mthembi and Teresa Oakley-Smith, both MDs and founders of their own successful businesses, share their personal stories of fighting gender and racial stereotypes in pursuit of a dream. Mthembi and Oakley-Smith, spoke at an Investec Women in Leadership event, entitled, “The Courage to Change.” We bring you this inspirational podcast.

Investec Specialist Bank and Asset Management

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International Women’s Day highlights the imperative role women play in business, the economy and households. Whilst women have come a long way in terms of recognising their worth, we’ve got a long way to go – and that starts in the boardroom. According to an EY study, there is overwhelming evidence that links gender parity to innovation and improved financial performance.

Businesses with women in top management roles experienced an increase in “innovation intensity” and were worth, on average, about US$40m more than companies with only male leaders. Yet on average, in SA, women earn about 73% of what men earn. (Ipsos 2017 survey)

In a frank and honest chat with Investec, two inspirational female leaders, Fumani Mthembi and Teresa Oakley-Smith, share their extraordinary business journey from having “a big dream” to surviving through the mean and lean times.

Fumani Mthembi, is a founding member of the Pele Energy Group – South Africa’s largest 100% black-owned independent power production and development firm – and MD of its research and development subsidiary, Knowledge Pele (KP), and Teresa Oakley-Smith, is the founder of Diversi-T, a change management consultancy with a focus on transformation and diversity training.

Listen to the podcast below for the full interview.

Here are some of the stand-out highlights from the interview:

1. Overcoming challenges female entrepreneurs face

Both Fumani and Teresa believe that, based on their respective experiences, men don’t take women seriously.

iwd_teresa_fumani_article-image-option-2“It’s very common in my industry to attend a meeting and have all the men address each other and not you,” says Fumani.“So I’ll be sitting there and they’ll all have their backs turned and they’ll be having a conversation amongst themselves.”

“I’ve had to work twice or three times as hard as male competitors to gain a contract; I’ve had to bend over backwards to actually make sure that my delivery is ten times better,” says Teresa.

2. Breaking down stereotypes

“In households of dual income, often the woman is bringing in more than the man, yet when we have to approach institutions of power, we feel somehow belittled, or we somehow lack our courage in an appreciation of the power we actually hold,” says Teresa.

Related: Feel Like Quitting? These 9 Women Prove Grit Can Lead You To Massive Success

“One of my clients is a very large retail company and they only have one woman out of a board of 40, and I was challenging them by saying: Who does the shopping? Women hold the purse strings, women go to the supermarkets, so why are they not represented? Why are their voices not heard?”

3. Encouraging diversity in the workplace

Teresa work centres around helping employers create work environments that encourage intersectionality, and recognise women’s unique needs.

“Does your company provide proper facilities for breastfeeding women and supply feminine hygiene products in case a female staff member is in need?” asks Teresa.

 

4. Educating about the need for empowerment

Fumani’s aim when starting her company was to transform society through knowledge and power and make a difference through a legacy that creates a new kind of context in which people like herself – a young, black female entrepreneur – could operate. “We wanted to spread the justice dividend and to use our privilege responsibly,” she says.

In her experience, banks struggle to recognise the need for women to seek finance for start-ups, because “they don’t need to take on that kind of risk. And that’s the thing about this dual economy, and as women we represent that second economy,” she says

“We’re a new risk; the things we want to do in this economy are new. Everything we do and present is new and we can be disruptive. So while we can ask for change, we can also be the change, and we can create these institutions that really understand us.”

 5. Seizing the power within you

Both women agree that recognising the challenge of being a woman in South Africa, should lead to women standing together and reclaiming their power. “We can only own our power if we join together as women of all races, ages and abilities and understand each other,” says Teresa.

Related: A Great Time To Be A Woman In Business

Out of Fumani’s 25-strong staff complement, only five employees are men. She puts that down to the talent and intellect shown by her women employees. But this female-male mix is far from the norm. Why? “What I’ve often seen is that women are very risk averse they’re incredibly bright.

We just don’t want to take a bet on ourselves,” says Fumani. “All these institutions are growing on the back women’s efforts. There’s a reason why 54% of graduate are women – we can do it, it’s just a matter of taking that chance on yourself.”

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Support for Women Entrepreneurs

A Great Time To Be A Woman In Business

South Africa’s growing band of female entrepreneurs have many lessons to teach us all.

Morné Stoltz

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South Africa’s growing band of female entrepreneurs have many lessons to teach us all. In our first article in this feature, Marine Louw showed us the power of passion.

In this article, Cresi Heslop offers living proof that opportunities are everywhere – if we can see them and are prepared to seize them. She is building a business by identifying opportunities as they open up and then working hard to exploit them.

“It’s all about using what you have and thinking a bit laterally,” Heslop says.

Heslop and her husband started a youth sports blog in order to provide a motivational platform for a new generation of South African sportsmen and – women. They saw the blog, Heslop Sports, as a labour of love, with no commercial intent. However, spending so much time among athletes did reveal a potential commercial idea: a towel specially designed with sports in mind and that South African athletes could use with pride, especially at international events.

Related: Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs

The result was a new business, Wonder Towel. Its flagship product is a microfibre towel designed to look like the South African flag, supplemented with a range of other microfibre products.

“Microfibre is environment-friendly because it’s so absorbent – it dries easily and stays fresh longer, and it takes less water to wash,” she says. “It’s also super light, thus great for travelling.”

Since then, the business has grown, selling primarily to the travel, beauty, baby and household markets, as well as the sports industry. Much of the selling is done via her online store and agents in Cape Town, Durban and Pretoria – as well as the e-commerce platforms. She singles out Takealot.com which, she says, does a great job in helping small businesses put themselves on the map.

She’s also just signed up a new distributor who is targeting independent schools, and schools with big water-sports teams.

Mentorship provided Heslop with welcomed inspiration and stability. She has built a solid relationship with a businesswoman who she respects enormously, Hendrien Kruger, the head of Inoar SA, which distributes a range of imported Brazilian hair products.

“We met seven years ago and I can turn to her at any point for sensible advice or just a good chat over a cuppa,” she says. “You should find some worthy people who inspire you in your field. They could even be people that you admire from a distance or whose books and lectures have become part of your way of seeing things.”

Because mentorship can play such a positive role, it’s vital that women offer themselves as mentors. Many successful women don’t realise how great an influence they could have on the next generation, starting what she calls a “cycle of future goodness”.

We’ve always heard about the power of the old boys’ club, and how it gives men a head start in business, but says Heslop, networks seem to be opening up.

“Female small-business owners are still in a bit of minority in South Africa, I believe however we are in a wonderful season of change at present,” she says.

Related: How Women Entrepreneurs Can Change the SA Business Landscape

“I recently had dealings with one of South Africa’s oldest and most established suppliers in a particular market sector, and I found them both welcoming and nurturing to an industry newcomer – something for which I am very grateful.”

Of course, entrepreneurs must also learn how to cope with challenges all the time. Heslop says that she keeps strong by sticking to a set of habits and actions. Her religious faith is an important mainstay and she daily affirms her commitment to making a difference, to being alert for hidden opportunities, and to spreading love and respect always.

“At the end of the day it will all boil down to confidence, belief in ourselves, joyous passion and delivering extremely high quality of products and services that will command respect and ensure us our rightful place in our beautiful nation’s economy,” she concludes.

MiWay is an Authorised Financial Services Provider (Licence no: 33970).

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