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Women Entrepreneur Successes

The Founder Of Khalala Earned Her Stripes Through An Entrepreneurial Baptism Of Fire

Sometimes the only way to live your dreams is to leap first, and then find the idea that will make your entrepreneurial goals come true. Mahadi Granier is living proof that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Nadine Todd

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VITAL STATS

  • Player: Mahadi Granier
  • Company: Khalala
  • Launched: 2016
  • Visit: www.khalala.com

In June 2015 Mahadi Granier made the single biggest — and scariest — decision of her life. She packed up her family and moved to Paris. Her husband, who is French, had found a job, but Mahadi was planning to stay at home with their five-month-old daughter and three-year-old son while figuring out her next move.

She wanted to be an entrepreneur, and she believed that throwing herself into the deep end and moving to a new country was the catalyst she needed. What followed has been a baptism of fire, but also one of the most rewarding experiences of her life. This is what she’s learnt about entrepreneurship since launching her business.

“You need to surround yourself with like-minded people who have the same drives and ambitions as you do.”

By the time Mahadi went on maternity leave for the second time, she had been employed in a senior position at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for eight years. She had a comfortable, well-paying job. She had the perfect set-up. She commanded boardrooms. Yet she lacked job satisfaction.

“I had too much time to think while I was on maternity leave,” she says.

Searching for innovation

“And what I thought about was my life path. Government employment is so bureaucratic. There’s no innovation. I didn’t feel like it was an environment conducive to achieving bigger goals and ambitions. I realised that the energy was dragging me down, and that if I stayed in that role, I would eventually become like everyone I worked with — comfortable and complacent.”

Mahadi’s friends and family didn’t understand what she was going through, or why she wanted to make a change. It was that same confusion that triggered the realisation that she was living and working in an environment that was not conducive to taking a leap.

Taking the plunge

Mahadi saw only one alternative: This seemed like the right time to take that plunge. She needed to radically change her surroundings, and force herself into the unknown terrain of entrepreneurship.

Related: Busi Skenjana’s Two Core Rules Of Entrepreneurship

“Sometimes you need to face your fears and take that big leap.”

Unfortunately, while the leap was big and bold, it wasn’t what Mahadi had expected. And yet, from that adversity emerged her business idea. “I realised it was a crazy prospect — new country, new market, new customers, without my social circle of influence.

I was moving to a market I knew nothing about, filled with consumers I didn’t know or understand. But that was the challenge. I wanted to go somewhere where there’s a higher level of expectation; where I was pushed to aspire to a higher bar.”

It was a massive culture shock. The language barrier in particular was greater than Mahadi had expected. Her dreams of arriving in Paris and starting a business were shattered. But that didn’t mean she was ready to give up.

Plan before you make your move

Instead, she chose to stay at home with her daughter, manage the integration of her family into a new culture, and research everything she could about France, Europe and the local business landscape.

“I had gone from boardrooms to stay-at-home mom, which in a way was the exact opposite of what I wanted for myself. But I’d had a reality check. If I wanted to do something real with my life, I needed to build the right foundations.

I also wanted to be a present mother. Part of my challenge was figuring out what kind of a role model I wanted to be for my children, and that meant also being fully present in their lives.”

Related: Black Like Me: Connie Mashaba

Achieving the work/life balance

As a result, Mahadi structured a schedule that allowed her to do both. “I woke up very, very early, and gave myself three hours of work and ‘miracle morning’ routine, before everyone woke up, Monday to Sunday, 5am to 8am. I then worked when my daughter napped, and in the evening after everyone went to bed.”

“Sometimes your greatest challenge can be your greatest advantage and opportunity as well.”

One of the core pieces of advice that aspiring entrepreneurs often receive is to do what you know. In Mahadi’s case, this was almost useless. She knew nothing.

Her past DTI experience was no help, and she was coming to the European market cold. But this also gave her an advantage. She had no expectations, and she was approaching everything with fresh eyes. She also had to seek out fellow South Africans who had already experienced what she was going through, and it was then that a business idea started to take shape.

Ask for advice

“I sought out South African entrepreneurs in France for advice. I had so many questions: Where are the South African entrepreneurs in France? What had their experiences been? What advice could they offer  — after all, they’d done this already and they understood the landscape.

“They could tell me what to avoid and where to go. By tapping into this community, my research time was reduced. I found valuable resources and trusted sources. Then I realised that no one was facilitating what I was going through — helping South Africans start businesses in the French (and broader European) market. Here was a gap that could be exploited. I felt like I’d stumbled on a
super-power.”

An idea is only as good as its execution, and Mahadi knew she needed to be more focused than ‘South African businesses abroad’. She needed to do more research. She approached the South African Embassy in Paris with one key question: What was the South African export basket into France dominated by and where did the greatest, untapped opportunities lie?

Finding your niche

Mahadi has her Masters in International Business, and is passionate about the subject. She had put this to use in her role at the DTI, but she now had an opportunity to turn those skills and passion into a viable business that also empowered other entrepreneurs. She just needed to find her niche.

“Before you get too attached to an idea, you need to understand the landscape you’re working within.”

“The first thing I did was look at the existing trade agreements between South Africa and France and within the broader European Union. Second, I looked at the South African export basket into France and realized that it was dominated by agro-processing, automotive, aircraft and electro-technical sectors.

Related: Out-The-Box Thinkers Shareen Parker and Silvana Dantu Share Their Partnership Secrets

Finding diversification opportunities

“And so, while those exports are in value-added products, they were concentrated in a few products. This presented a diversification opportunity. One such opportunity lay within the clothing and textiles sector.

“On the demand side, the French and global fashion industry at large is always influenced by the same fashion houses — Prada, Louis Vitton and the like. They dominate the market, irrespective of the undeniable demand for a diversified fashion aesthetic. With the South African ambassador’s help, I carved a niche and just like that, an idea was born.”

One of the first designers that Mahadi reached out to was Laduma Ngxokolo, founder of ‘MaXhosa by Laduma’. What she learnt from studying his global success was that designs rooted in African-rich heritage, culture, tradition and customs and fused with western influence provide a unique combination and hybrid that not only energises the international audience but acts as a catalyst for success. This is a crucial determinant of global competitiveness.

Understanding new markets intimately

“But there was a greater observation as well. If you want to break into new markets, you need to understand them intimately — their tastes, their purchasing behaviours, what they’ll spend money on, what does and doesn’t work. I knew I could play a valuable role here, acting as a conduit on the ground. This gave me a competitive edge in playing a business facilitation role.”

Armed with this knowledge, Mahadi saw multiple needs. “First, I needed to empower South African designers to raise their level of thinking beyond local markets and open themselves up to new international audiences. Second, I am constantly interacting with buyers at trade fairs throughout Europe.

“I am gathering intelligence, forging business relationships, networking, gaining new business insights but most importantly, I’m identifying trade opportunities. Finally, I decided to acknowledge the undeniable power of social media as a vehicle to reach remote buyers.

“Therefore, I launched a digital magazine that I market exclusively through social media. To date, the magazine has been read in over twenty countries worldwide.”

“Finding the right partner is an essential step in the overall journey, and in achieving your goals.”

Thriving in the entrepreneurial ecosystem

Another key lesson that Mahadi has learnt — and indeed, is imbedded in her overall business model — is the fact that entrepreneurship is an ecosystem. Business owners work together. Very few successes are isolated.

Related: How Matsi Modise Squeezes More Out Of Every Day While Keeping It Real

To carry her idea forward, Mahadi knew she needed a partner in South Africa. After researching the fashion landscape back home, she realised that the best person she could approach was Sonwabile Ndamase, personal designer to Nelson Mandela, creator of the Madiba shirts, and founder of the South African Fashion Designers Agency (SAFDA).

For almost three decades, Sonwabile has been giving back to his industry, training young designers from rural areas to not only become fashion designers, but to build sustainable fashion businesses. He had been looking for ways to increase the reach of his programmes into Europe and Mahadi provided the ideal opportunity.

Creating international market access opportunities

SAFDA and KHALALA have entered into a collaboration agreement, formalising a partnership to work together to create international market access opportunities for young and emerging South African fashion designers in Europe.

Mahadi and Sonwabile are just at the beginning of this journey, and are currently reaching out to funders. With the right focus, dedication and some luck, the next generation of South African designers making international waves will be in the not-t

Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.

Women Entrepreneur Successes

AnaStellar Brands Founders Top Tips For Taking On Entrenched Competitors

Launched in August 2016, AnaStellar Brands has seen strong growth over a short period. According to founders Anastasia Dobson-du Toit and Michelle Dateling, success depends on getting the fundamentals right.

GG van Rooyen

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Vital Stats

  • Players: Michelle Dateling and Anastasia Dobson-du Toit
  • Company: AnaStellar Brands
  • Est: 2016
  • About: AnaStellar Brands is a female-owned South African company, with a focus on the development, marketing and sale of innovative brands in the FMCG, cosmetics and pharmaceutical sectors. All of the company’s brands are manufactured and packaged within South Africa.
  • Visit: www.anastellar.co.za

Anastasia Dobson-Du Toit, a qualified pharmacist with a BCom degree and Michelle Dateling, an optometrist, met while both were pursuing an MBA at Wits University in 2010. Anastasia had spent years working in her family’s pharmaceutical company, which was eventually sold to a multinational. Michelle, meanwhile, was working as an optometrist and also has a stake in an optometry business. A few years after successfully completing their MBA degrees, both were looking to start a business.

“Initially, there were six of us — six ladies who had been in the MBA programme together. We all felt that there was no gain in simply getting an MBA. We needed to actually do something with it, so we decided to start a business together,” says Michelle.

As often happens, though, several members of the group withdrew for one reason or another, until eventually, only Anastasia and Michelle were left. Having exited the family business in 2014, Anastasia was ready for a new challenge and Michelle was also keen to venture deeper into the realm of entrepreneurship.

The industry they settled on was a challenging one, but also one that Anastasia was intimately familiar with: Pharmaceuticals. They launched AnaStellar Brands in 2016, a company that produces consumer health products that target the body and its functions in a holistic way.

“We make use of a mixology of targeted ingredients in a safe, cost-effective and convenient way, ensuring continued compliance and thus effective results. Our products focus on the nutritional requirements of women throughout the various stages of womanhood, including prenatal supplementation,” says Anastasia.

Related: Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs

Of course, making inroads into an industry that is incredibly competitive and heavily regulated isn’t easy, yet the company has enjoyed impressive growth over the last 18 months. How did the founders manage to establish and grow their start-up so quickly? Here are their tips for taking on entrenched competitors.

1. Focus on what you do best

“We focus on the development, marketing and sale of products.” says Anastasia. “We don’t manufacture anything ourselves and we don’t handle things like warehousing and distribution. When we launched the company, we knew that we wanted it to be a South African businesses — that the money should stay in the country and stimulate the economy here. However, we also realised that we didn’t have to manufacture ourselves in order to accomplish this. There are plenty of South African businesses with the necessary capacity, just hoping for the business. So, we focus on the development and branding, which is where our strengths lie and contract the rest out. Trying to manufacture on a large scale when you are a small start-up is just too costly.”

2. Don’t give your company away

“Bootstrapping a business isn’t easy, so saying no to funding can be hard. However, you have to be very careful when it comes to taking outside funding. Although people were offering us money for something that didn’t truly exist yet, we decided to rather fund the business ourselves. Equity is cheap when a start-up is young, and a founder can end up regretting giving a big chunk of the business away. Also, you can quickly find yourself in a situation where you are no longer your own boss. If at all possible, fund the business yourself,” says Anastasia.

3. Know your market and customer

“Although we only launched late in 2016, we had spent a lot of time researching and preparing before this. We analysed the market carefully and really looked at our competitors. We tried their products and took photos of shelves in stores. We knew exactly what the market looked like, and we knew how we wanted to position ourselves by the time we officially started doing business,” says Michelle.

4. Build intellectual property

At the end of the day, all you really have is your brand and your IP, so you need to focus on those when launching your business. You need to know exactly what you want your brand to be. You need to sweat the details. Logos, packaging and marketing materials are important.

You need to stand out and you need to be able to compete with large multinationals. We spent time and money on good packaging, for instance, even creating boxes that are printed on the inside. This adds to cost, but helps build the brand,” says Michelle.

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

5. Have a clear marketing strategy

“A start-up doesn’t have the marketing budget of a large business, so you need to be strategic and targeted in your marketing. We decided to recruit a sales force to target the doctors who would prescribe our products, instead of spending money on traditional marketing campaigns. This was a strategy that really worked for us. You need to look at what the most cost-effective marketing solution is for your business. A young business needs to see a great ROI when it comes to marketing, otherwise it isn’t worth it,” says Michelle.

6. Protect your IP

“A good lawyer can be expensive, but it is absolutely worth the investment. You need a lawyer to look at any contracts you sign, and you need someone who can help you to protect your IP. Too many start-ups launch without worrying about IP. By the time they come round to it, it’s often too late. Get a good IP lawyer and protect your brand from day one,” says Anastasia.

7. Hire carefully

“As a start-up, we hire a lot of young and inexperienced sales people who we train and help grow,” says Anastasia. “The problem with this, however, is that you can spend a lot of time and money training someone, and then quickly lose them to a bigger company once they have gained some experience. Make sure that you aren’t simply training someone for the competition. Hire employees who are committed for the long term. It’s even worth including a clause in employee contracts that state that employees need to repay the cost of training if they leave the business within a certain period.”

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Women Entrepreneur Successes

VP Of SAB and AB InBev Doreen Kosi Explains What Drives Success

When SABMiller and AB InBev merged in 2016, two organisations known for exceptional systems, processes and a winning attitude became one. Incredible growth and an enduring long-term vision are proof that the right culture can go a long way. Doreen Kosi unpacks the personal success mindset that drew her to SAB, and reveals what it means to be a part of a winning team.

Nadine Todd

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Vital Stats

  • Player: Doreen Kosi
  • Company: SAB and AB InBev
  • Position: Vice President: Legal & Corporate Affairs — SAB and AB InBev, Africa Zone
  • Visit: www.ab-inbev.com; www.sab.co.za

Anything is possible

If you put your mind to it and ask for help when in doubt, you can achieve any goal you set for yourself. As a leader, you don’t need to always have all the answers. That’s why we build strong teams made up of specialists in their fields; we all need to learn from each other. I’ve found it’s important to steer your team, but also to be led when necessary. Ultimately, real success is achieved when we work collaboratively.

Quick collaborations build solutions-orientated teams

doreen-kosiSAB/AB InBev has an open plan office culture. As an exco member, I don’t have an office, I have a desk. In my previous positions, I’d arrive at my office, close the door and start working. Since joining this organisation, I’ve realised how collaborative it is to work in an open plan environment. Instead of sending emails to discuss setting up meetings, you can address an issue then and there, in five minutes, and find a solution. It encourages team members to reach out, share thoughts and ideas, find solutions, make immediate decisions and move on to the next challenge or task.

Related: 15 Wise Insights From 15 Entrepreneurial Icons

Partnerships drive success

Beyond your own organisation, when you work with the collective you stand a better chance of succeeding. More minds are better than one because they bring about diversity of ideas and ways of doing things. Surround yourself with positive people and support them as well.

When you build partnerships between corporates and SMEs, you increase the chances of leveraging off one another, learning lessons, sharing risks and driving shared success and growth. When you all grow together, your impact on job creation and improving lives increases. But, it’s important to take ownership and be accountable for your own actions and results. When you do this, you have a collective commitment to improve the lives of more people in more communities, and also to build communities by developing people and creating authentic and sustainable jobs that can be measured.

Top players encourage best-of-breed behaviour

When everyone is working side by side, and you have an office full of top performers, the bar is constantly being raised. You’re exposed to best practice and you start shaping your own behaviour accordingly. Don’t hide your stars. Expose their way of thinking and doing things to everyone around them. Pay attention to what top performers are doing around you as well — what can you learn from them, and how can you adjust your own style to get more done?

Top performers are drawn to winners

Long ago SAB and AB InBev made the decision to focus on cultivating a winning culture, and it’s worked. This is a company of winners and owners. It’s a place where results and personal goals are aligned. There’s an overriding culture that if you’re focused on results and have personal accountability, you cannot fail. There’s a huge amount of focused energy when you walk through the doors of any SAB/AB InBev office around the world, and it’s because of this. When you create an organisation of winners, other winners want to join you.

The result is a team of high performers drawn to each other, all pushing each other to greater heights. If you don’t accept mediocrity, if you’re driven by the exceptional, and you build your teams with people who hold the same values, eventually, you’ll attract more of the same individuals.

Related: A Great Time To Be A Woman In Business

Understand your personal philosophy and live by it

ab-inbevIf you want to build a team of winners, or join one, you need to be disciplined in your goals. You need to strive to manage yourself well in all aspects of your life, and to be emotionally intelligent. I have a dual philosophy I live by. Make decisions, stick by them and live with the consequences; and ‘lift others as you climb’. This isn’t my original quote, but I believe in it strongly.

Hand-in-hand with self-discipline is resilience

One fundamental truth that experience has taught me is that successful professionals and entrepreneurs are resilient and not shy to get up when they fall. They pull themselves together and start over again, no matter how many times they fail. Never give up. The less successful are those who give up when things get tough.

Believe in yourself

There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. The one pulls people towards you, the other is a turn-off, so be careful how you build and embrace your confidence, but whatever you do, believe in yourself. To the point above, it’s how those who fail get back up and try again. Understand your worth. Never sell yourself short. Self-motivation is key. I think it’s clear that I believe in the value of teams and partnerships, but you can’t add value to a team if you aren’t confident in your worth and what you bring to the table. Confidence also opens up many possibilities.

When you’re confident, the possibility of people warming up to you and being open to supporting you are very high. And don’t forget: Success is hard work. Work hard, be authentic, persist and develop a thick skin. Things won’t always go your way.

Personal growth is key if you want to be successful

Never stop learning. If you can, learn something new every day. Concern yourself with what is going on in your surroundings and recognise the phenomenon of global citizenship. SAB/AB InBev has such an incredible growth and innovation culture that we drive within the organistion, but ultimately it starts with the individual. For example, we have a global Best Practice Programme.

Any team can submit a ‘best practice’ solution, and if it’s tested and is better than the current solution, it will be rolled out across the organisation. It means we are all constantly looking for ways to improve our systems and processes, we focus on innovations, and we’re competitive. But most importantly, you can’t develop best practice solutions if you aren’t personally focused on growth. The two go hand-in-hand. We learn all the time.

Knowledge evolves and we cannot stop the hands of time. Networking opens new possibilities and ideas and builds contacts from which you could benefit. When your networks expand, you have a bigger pool of resources and support. This works for both individuals and entrepreneurs.

Related: Before Time In Soweto – The Décor Hire And Catering Entrepreneurs That Are Growing Their Business Annually


Simple steps to successful entrepreneurship

Doreen offers her top tips for building a successful career and business:

  • Define your own success and become a champion of your own dreams.
  • Clarity breeds action. Identify what you want to do. Do a proper due diligence of the market and identify gaps carefully before you start up. Have a clear idea of how you want to close those gaps and convert your idea into a bankable business idea.
  • Keep your idea simple and do not shy away from repeating the same actions until success is imminent.
  • Have the courage to get started. You might not get everything right but do start anyway because unsuccessful aspirant entrepreneurs fail, along with their ideas, for fear of acting on their dreams.
  • Have a game plan: Be realistic about your idea and craft a solid strategy around it before execution.
  • Map out a measurable execution roadmap and keep it in constant check.
  • Focus: Do not become distracted at all costs.
  • Always go back to basics and ensure constant relevance of your plan. Use the time to ensure that you are ready to adapt when the need arises.
  • Recognise stumbling blocks and understand them for what they really are.
  • Use your fear to your advantage: Embrace your fear because it will take you out of your comfort zone.
  • Find positives in negatives and work on them to reach your success.
  • Be ethical and fair in your dealings with others.

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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Relax Spas Founder Noli Mini Shares Her Insights On Building A Business Of Value

While Relax Spas is all about rest and relaxation, the business itself is the product of hard work. Founder Noli Mini explains how she got her unique business idea off the ground.

GG van Rooyen

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Vital Stats

  • Player: Noli Mini
  • Company: Relax Spas
  • Founded: 2010
  • About: Noli Mini started in 2010 as a ‘mobile spa therapist’, going to different hotels and offering mobile spa treatments. The concept has evolved and Noli has set up bases, including two spa suites, at various hotels and guest houses.  An additional aspect of Relax Spas’ offering is to provide spa treatments at corporate offices and on corporate wellness days. She also has her own range of massage oils and is introducing her own brand of beauty and skincare products. To complete the circle, Noli will soon be launching her beauty and spa training institute.
  • Visit: www.relaxspas.co.za

Previous experience in an industry is key

Working in an industry before launching your own operation is crucial, since it provides you with the understanding and expertise needed to successfully launch your own business. By working in other businesses first, you gain a realistic idea of what the industry is like. You also experience different environments.

You see what works, and what doesn’t. You can cherry pick from different companies and create an organisation and culture that will work for you.

Related: Noli Mini – The Full Beauty, Wellness And Entrepreneurship Package To Keep An Eye On

Know what you’re getting yourself into

Passion and a fun business idea are important, but you also need to understand the basics of launching a company.

  • How easy will it be to develop your product or idea?
  • How will you market it?
  • What sort of financial controls will you put in place?
  • What regulations must you comply with in your industry?
  • Are any licences required? What are the labour laws?

These are all questions you need to be able to answer before launching.

Build a good team around you

The combined effort of a team is almost always greater than the sum of individual contributions. Find people that can complement your skillset and bring tools to the table that you don’t have. Improving your business acumen and knowledge is important, for instance, but you don’t necessarily need to go to university to do it.

You can also increase your knowledge by surrounding yourself with the right people, particularly mentors who can guide you in both a personal and business capacity.

Create a buzz around your business by sharing your story

People love hearing stories, and I believe that just about every start-up has a great story to tell. Offering to write free editorial content for magazines is a great way to do it. Another is to speak at conferences. These strategies require effort, but they can greatly increase your reach and position you as a thought leader in your industry.

Use every single opportunity you get to market your business

You need to live and breathe your brand. Marketing is about more than spending money. You can market your business by sponsoring charity walks, wellness events and golf days in your community. Collaboration is another good strategy. There’s no better way of building a business than to get out there and shake some hands. You need to get to know people. Also, be authentic in your networking so that people get to see and know the real you.

Related: Before Time In Soweto – The Décor Hire And Catering Entrepreneurs That Are Growing Their Business Annually

Build relationships

Establishing strong relationships with your clients and business partners is of paramount importance. One way you can do this is by face to face weekly or monthly visits, depending on the demographics of your business. Another way is by keeping in touch using email or telephonically. Remember, human interaction is key. People love feeling appreciated. Also, remember that customer service is important, as a person will usually base his or her entire opinion of a business on a handful of personal interactions. So, you need to make sure that those interactions are positive. It’s all too easy to lose a customer forever.

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