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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Africa Race International: Phindi Kema

Africa’s first-ever international horse-racing event is being launched by a determined entrepreneur who’s got the backing of a host of prestigious international partners.

Juliet Pitman



Phindi Kema

Phindi Kema doesn’t seem to know what it means to think small, and her concept of limitations is, well, limited. When the stud farm neighbouring her citrus farm in the Eastern Cape was up for sale, she acquired it through the Department of Land Affairs and become South Africa’s first black stud breeder. While she knew very little about horses at the time, her ambitions paved the way to success – her thoroughbred filly,

Midnight Queen, was purchased by Mary Slack, daughter of Harry Oppenheimer, and another horse, Fair Report, went on to become a race winner.

Setting a new bar

Then, when a visit to the Middle East opened her eyes to the international potential in horse-racing events, she returned home, founded Africa Race International (ARI), and set about establishing Africa’s first-ever international horse-racing event.  True to form, Kema was not  content to start small and grow. She has – in less than a year – signed on as a partner UK-listed International Racecourse Management (IRM) who’ve established world-class racing events around the globe and are responsible for Britain’s famed St Leger Festival, appointed internationally-renowned racing figure and former CEO of the Qatar Racing Authority, Michael Fenton, to her board as race director, and secured a R25 million purse for the event.

This last achievement is nothing short of extraordinary, particularly when one considers the fact that the country’s most prestigious horse-racing event currently offers a winner’s purse of no more than around R3 million. For Kema, though, it’s a vital part of placing this event, the country and the continent firmly on the international horse-racing map.

Shaking things up

“The money is critical if we want to attract the international market. You need to bear in mind that some of the thoroughbreds are worth £30 million and owners are not going to transport these animals and send them to race in an event unless it is worth their while. Even if their horse doesn’t win, you need to make the event high profile enough for them to want to come. And while R25 million is a lot on the South African horse-racing scene, it’s not as much as the big established international events – the purse for the Dubai World Cup, for example, is $8 million,” says Kema.

These comparisons show her bigger-picture vision for the South African horse-racing scene. “I want to aid the development of an internationally recognised horse-racing culture that places the race horses front and centre of every event, not as an aside or afterthought to the social things that may be happening on the day,” she says. Her vision extends to Africa where, she hopes, thoroughbred breeding will develop, provided there is an internationally renowned annual event on the continent for such horses to race in.

Building power partnerships

Getting all this off the ground – financially and logistically – is no mean feat but Kema  understands the power of partnering with the right people. “Starting an event is very difficult because you need established prestige to be able to attract the money and sponsorship, but you also need the money and sponsorship to establish a prestigious event!” she says.

Her solution to the conundrum has been to surround herself with prestigious partners, the likes of IRM and Michael Fenton, who lend their established international reputation in the horse-racing world to Kema’s venture. “International players not only elevate the status of the event but they lend invaluable expertise so we can be sure we have the skills necessary to cover all aspects of the project,” says Kema.

That said, building partnerships with such big-name players is not an easy task, particularly for someone who has no track record in horse-racing events. What Kema does have however, is a unique ability to share her vision and ignite passion for it in others. Her relationship with Michael Fenton was forged in Qatar when she outlined her plan for ARI. He in turn introduced her to the founder of IRM who, as it happened, had for some time been interested in the potential inherent in the South African market.

The launch event is set to take place in 2013 and between now and then much remains to be done. Kema will be spending some time in the UK in order to be closer to her international partners and to gain the expertise necessary to make ARI work. In the meantime, she’s established a foundation that can best be described as highly pedigreed.

Africa Race International

Player: Phindi Kema

Est. 2009

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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Designing Her Destiny

Oh Yay! owner, Emmerentia van den Hoven does business her way.

QuickBooks SA




In 2011, Emmerentia van den Hoven took a leap of faith when she decided to leave her graphic design job at an agency and pursue her real passion – and it has paid off tenfold. Here’s her story.

“When I started planning my own wedding eight years ago, I fell in love with wedding design and wanted to do that for the rest of my life. Designing for brands had become a set of rules rather than being creative, and I’d always wanted to work for myself. So, in September 2011, I turned my seven-month-old side gig into a fully-fledged business and launched Oh Yay!

I have to hustle every month to get new clients because every client will use my services maximum twice – first for the wedding invitations and then for the stationery on the day – so I don’t normally have returning clients.

Because my main business is seasonal and usually once-off per customer, I have branched out into branding for small businesses in the beauty and lifestyle industry. I also earn a passive income through the Oh Yay! online shop where I sell wedding décor items.  Oh Yay Kids – my other online store – is my passion project. I launched it just before my second child was born, adding items to the store that I made for my two boys when I saw a need for it. I then expanded into prints for nurseries and kids’ party stationery.

I work for myself and have no employees, so the fact that QuickBooks lets me load all my services, products and prices in one place makes running my business so much easier. Being an entrepreneur is difficult because you don’t know if you’ll be successful or not. But if you believe in and love what you’re doing, it reflects in your work and the service you give.”

Less admin, more of what you love


When Oh Yay! was launched, along with her dream of being an entrepreneur, came the nightmare of other administrative tasks. But that changed in 2018 when Emmerentia started using QuickBooks.

“When I was using spreadsheets to balance my books, I was spending 80% of my time on admin, which left very little time to tend to customers’ orders. I now spend no more than 25% of my time on admin, which is important, especially when it comes to the speed at which I send quotes. You don’t get any work if you don’t send out quotes and it’s tough to juggle the admin with your actual job of running the business.

Numbers were never really my strong point, so having a professional quote done in record time not only projects professionalism, but the format also changes the way new clients see me. In my industry, the quicker you can send a quote out, the likelier you’ll get the clients’ business. It gives legitimacy to my business. The QuickBooks system operates so seamlessly that clients communicate with me differently, like I have my own accounting department, when in fact, I’m a one-woman-show.

I used to dread doing admin, but now it’s so easy and quick. I’m not just saying this – QuickBooks changed my life.”

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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Watch List: 50 Black African Women Entrepreneurs To Watch

These female entrepreneurs are breaking barriers, transforming industries and inspiring change on the continent.

Diana Albertyn



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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Owner Of Nouwens Carpets Shares Success Lessons From Running A 50 Year Old Family Business

Embrace technology every chance you get.

Nadine Todd




A company that’s been active for more than five decades in an industry that’s hundreds of years old doesn’t sound like a recipe for innovation — and yet that’s exactly what Luci Nouwens, owner of Nouwens Carpets, is focused on.

The modern carpet has a history that goes back thousands of years. And despite the hipster trend of reclaimed and hard wood flooring, the carpet still remains a popular choice for consumers.

In South Africa, a name that’s synonymous with quality carpeting is Nouwens. When Cornelis Nouwens arrived in the country in the 1950s, bringing the skills of a trade which he had mastered alongside his father in Tilburg, the hub of the Netherlands’ wool textile industry, he passed on the skills and the love of the craft to his family and to workers in the Harrismith region in KwaZulu Natal.

More than 50 years after her father started it in 1962, the company remains family owned, and is headed by Luci Nouwens, who has been with the business for 48 years.

“We have maintained our reputation for premium quality all this time by paying meticulous attention to crafting standards and selecting only the finest raw materials,” says Luci. “Equally important is that we have innovated at every opportunity, embracing technology without ever compromising the traditional craftsman’s spirit.”

Innovation drives growth

Businesses that innovate are able to grow and hire more employees. As a result, they grab a bigger share of the market. That’s true regardless of the size of your business: If you innovate, you can scale up.

In 1968 Nouwens launched a pure karakul wool carpet that was extremely hard wearing and took the company into the commercial carpet market. Luci recalls the manufacturing of the carpet as “a major feat of unique textile engineering.” Another innovation in 2005 was the introduction of a totally new style of flat weave wool carpet, a very clean, minimalist and natural look requiring much less wool without compromising on wearability.

“These innovations are just two of many that have allowed the business to boost its market share over the years,” says Luci. “But beyond that, innovation has enabled Nouwens Carpets to form the backbone of economic activity and upliftment in the local community around Harrismith. This has allowed us to make substantial investment in providing education and skills development for the local population, to ensure that the craft is preserved for generations to come.”

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

Innovation enables sustainability

Innovation in technologies and how they are applied is key to enabling a manufacturer like Nouwens to create new business value, while also protecting the planet.

“We have used technology to enable sustainable manufacturing, for the benefit of the business, the community, and our customers.”

Nouwens selects equipment, materials and manufacturing methods based on their degree of sustainability and protection of the environment. The company is also a member of the Green Building Council of South Africa and submits its products for VOC testing to ensure that harmful emissions are significantly reduced.

“Ultimately, we are driven by a passion for textiles and the ability to constantly find better ways to produce beautiful products. After the downturn in the economy, we started to produce more cost-effective commercial nylon yarns, and in 2017, we became the new kid on the block for synthetic grass. The bottom line is that a true entrepreneur does what has to be done when the time comes.” — Monique Verduyn

The role of disruption in creating value

A disruptive business is a business that challenges and potentially changes the status quo. From a mindset point of view, a culture that questions ‘why’ can help foster organisational and market disruption. But disruption for the sake of disruption is self-defeating, it needs to be on the back of making things better and based on commercial principles, i.e. people or market players actually wanting to be disrupted.

The starting point is this: Does someone, or a market, value what you’re producing? If the answer is yes, you have a commercially viable disruption. Disruption that is valued by its target market has the best chance of resulting in success.

Get that right and you’ll have a customer base, you’ll gain traction and you’ll attract investors, provided you’re also making a meaningful and sustainable difference to your target market or community. — Ian Lessem, CEO, HAVAIC Investment and Advisory Firm


Team up with customers and competitors.

There’s more power in collaboration than competition. We’re stronger together than when we’re apart. When it comes to working with competitors, consider this: They may have something that you don’t, or vice versa, and 50% of something is always more than 100% of nothing. You’re then positioned to add value before you add an invoice, so your clients benefit from your relationships, and the market wins. From there, you become your client’s go-to-person, because you’re putting them first.

Customers are also a great source of knowledge: They might just have the answers you’re looking for, but are you asking them the right questions? They often know more about an entrepreneur’s business than they know themselves, because they’re on the receiving end of your offering. One way to collaborate with customers is to ask them more questions about yourselves, themselves and their clients. Harness their perspective and develop yourself to give them what they want, not what you think they want. — Wes Boshoff, founder, Imagine Thinking

Related: Watch List: 50 Top SA Business Women To Watch


Know what your audiences are interested in

As a brand, there are many ways to ensure your audience is paying attention to you, but you can’t expect them to find you unless you’re sharing content that captures their interest. If you send out press releases, don’t be too rigid or plain. Audiences want to be engaged, and not to have to deal with long, cumbersome information. An infographic, along with a video or pictures will make your release easier to ingest and more memorable. People don’t want boring figures, they want relatable stories.

One way to be relatable is by tapping into influencer marketing. This doesn’t mean you need celebrities with the highest followings to endorse you. Micro-influencers are proving to have just as much clout as those with larger followings. Evidence shows that micro-influencers have a more established and deeper connection with their audience, which translates to loyalty and a readiness to follow their advice. The trick is to find the micro-influencers who are speaking to the audience you want to reach.

Big data plays a key role in painting a picture of who is ‘out there’. With the right information, you can tailor your content to a specific audience. Big data can show you what topics and problems are trending in your industry, so that you can get the jump on them. Use big data to deliver your own insights on current topics, shaping and leading the conversation, converting your audience’s attention into action. — Madelain Roscher, founder and managing director, PR Worx and Status Reputation Management

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