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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Colleen Tshikani Makhubele Talks About Finding Her Edge And Growing In SA’s Oil And Gas Sector

There has been a notable rise in female entrepreneurs in South Africa even with the many obstacles they know they need to overcome.

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There has been a notable rise in female entrepreneurs in South Africa even with the many obstacles they know they need to overcome.

This is telling of the untapped ambition in the market against the rise in unemployment and economic conditions. Colleen Tshikani Makhubele always had a desire to be in business particularly because of the idea of ownership that it came with. This is the type of ownership that allowed you to empower, contribute to job creation and most importantly being financially independent – something that fueled Colleen’s passion to become the co-founder and CEO of Mzumbe Oil in established in 2012.

Related: 10 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 Share Their Start-Up Secrets

“My academic strength initially led me to become an IT Engineering specialist and I was privileged to receive a scholarship from the Telkom foundation to study an equivalent of Computer Science degree in Malaysia, Multimedia University when I was 17 years old”, says Makhubele, “I spent almost 4 years in Malaysia and graduated with an honours degree in BIT: Information systems Engineering.

Exposure to the oil and gas industry back in 2012 sparked Colleen’s interest to do business in the space. She identified a need in the market and an opportunity which was growing, created by our government advocating for transformation of industries to include black businesses, women and youth owned business and also to be socially inclusive.

The drive that interested her the most the one focused on access for black women to opportunities in the industries previously dominated by whites and men.

“I saw this need as an opportunity to offer government and commercial clients relevant solutions while at the same time assist them to meet their transformation targets and empower local communities. Our business is structured such that we are able to do this successfully” states Makhubele.

When Shell Commercial Fuels in South Africa brought its distributor model into SA as part of extending business reach and empowering local entrepreneurs, Colleen grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

“We started our relationship with Shell in 2014, when at the time we received our first contract for Mzumbe Oil with Transnet”, adds Makhubele, “Since then we have kept in close contact until the right opportunity presented itself at the right time in the form of the Shell Enterprise Development (ED) Project.”

There was no second guessing, this was exactly what Mzumbe Oil needed to reposition itself and strengthen its capabilities for service and growth. At the time, the country was in the process of a legislative push for transformation and black women empowerment – the timing was right.

“We understood Shell’s commitment to transformation and how they embraced the empowerment of women in this industry and our visions as well as missions were aligned. It made business sense”, says Makhubele.

Related: 10 Inspirational African Entrepreneurs

Although Mzumbe Oil is in the process of engaging and exploring the full benefits of Shell’s ED programme from a skills development, capability assessments and interventions perspective, there has been noticeable progress and improvements in her business since initial engagement.

“Our technical teams have been empowered substantially and continue to be trained on product knowledge and relevant applicable industries. Our sales team is currently in the Sales Development Programme, which is a duration of 6 months. Post this, we will have teams that are able to sell our products effectively and competitively with the support of in-house technical teams that have the relevant knowledge to advise out customers on the solutions required”, adds Makhubele.

Through Shell’s technical support, we have received great support in presenting our solutions to potential clients and association has opened the Shell network of distributors that has helped reinforce our capacity for storage depot and logistics”, adds Makhubele.

Mzumbe Oil is well on the road to becoming a Shell Branded distributor which will favorably position them in the market with the support of the best of the best oil companies in the market. Makhubele also notes that Mzumbe Oil has gained access to superior products that they now offer to their existing and potential clients.

One thing that stands out for Colleen is how the company has been positioned where they can win big contracts with Shell’s technical support and capability behind us.

Reflectively, Colleen notes the importance of getting women involved in all key industries of our economies in SA and in Africa.

Related: The 10 Strangest Secrets About Millionaires

“Women have a unique value to add based on our skills set and natural nurturing instincts that promote sustainable growth. We are very key in growing these industries to be socially inclusive, retaining talents and bringing new innovative solutions. Women have to start getting involved at Board level, director level and senior management levels. There are opportunities in the upstream in terms of explorations, refining, drilling, manufacturing”.

She is quite happy in her current role as the CEO of Mzumbe Oil but does see herself growing into the role of Chairperson. “This will enable me to network more and focus on growing the company in different product streams such as renewable energy and investing in the upstream activities”.

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Company Posts

Designing Her Destiny

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

QuickBooks SA

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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

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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

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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

Collaboration

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

PR

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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