- Player: Matsi Modise
- Organisation: SiMODiSA
- What they do: The SiMODiSA Association has been established as a powerful industry-led initiative to specifically address — and determine — what can be done to overcome the barriers that SMEs and start-ups face.
- Launched: 2013
- Visit: simodisa.org
When Matsi Modise was involved in the launch of SiMODiSA, a not-for-profit entrepreneurial organisation designed to create and facilitate growth opportunities for entrepreneurs, she knew that networking would play a large role in her business. After all, how can you effectively facilitate opportunities unless you know who all of the players are?
This means that since 2013, Matsi has made it her mission to know who the public, corporate and entrepreneurial players are in South Africa and across the continent. This not only takes masterful time management, but the ability to take a macro and micro view of the entrepreneurial community and its needs.
Here’s how one woman squeezes the most out of each and every day, while managing to stay meaningfully connected to her professional community.
Become a people’s person
“I’m lucky in that I’ve always been a high-energy, personable individual,” says Matsi.
“I treat everyone as an equal and approach each situation from a position of respect, whether you’re a janitor or a senator. I’m interested in everyone I speak to; I want to engage. I make it my mission to find out what makes you tick — what’s your mission, and what do you want to achieve.”
The end result is that Matsi derives real value from networking engagements. More importantly, because she takes a personal interest in people, she remembers who they are, enabling her to build her landscape. Her top tip? Networking is time consuming, so if you’re going to do it, get the most out of it. Spend time speaking to people in a meaningful way, creating real and personal connections.
“It’s easy to engage when you’re passionate — people want to engage further with you. You can’t approach networking just wanting to gain something; you have to be there to give as well.”
Learn to say no
“This was the toughest lesson for me to personally implement. Saying yes has always come naturally to me. But I’ve needed to become far more strategic in how I spend my time. I’ll do a speaking engagement if I know that someone I want to connect with is attending the event, for example. Your time is one of your most valuable resources, and it’s finite. Treat it with respect.”
Related: Work Smarter Says Matsi Modise
Join strategic networks where possible
“I was honoured with the opportunity to join the World Economic Forum as a Global Shaper. This in turn gave me access to Africa 2.0 and The African Leadership Network (ALN), both of which open doors to a pan-African community.” However, as much as Matsi is honoured by her inclusion into such a prestigious forum, the lesson is that it didn’t happen by accident — it was the result of careful and prolific networking, sharing her story, and proving that she was going above and beyond to assist the entrepreneurial community.
“I started by sharing my story,” says Matsi. “I left a secure position in investment banking to pursue my passion — helping entrepreneurs to grow, first through my role as MD of The South African Black Entrepreneurs Forum (SABEF), and then through my own organisation, SiMODiSA. People respond to personal stories. They have power. When you’ve taken a risk, and lived the journey you’re promoting, it’s a story others want to share, and that opens doors.” If you’re going to make the most and best use of your time, you want it to be working towards a specific goal. No time is wasted if you’re moving towards a target.
Follow a routine that suits your productivity style
“I used to gym in the morning, but then I realised that it wasn’t tapping into my personal productivity needs.
I’ve learnt that I need to prepare myself for a successful day. I wake up at 5.30am and meditate. I have a conversation with myself. If the previous day made me unhappy for some reason, I address that first.
For example, I could have had a personal issue, HR issues at the office, and an investor meeting that went poorly. Bad days happen. What’s important is that you don’t let them derail an entire week. So each day I’ll evaluate the previous day: What worked and what do I need to do differently? I’ll then mentally prepare myself for the day ahead.
Next, I have a conversation with God, preparing myself for the day spiritually. Finally, I catch up on current affairs. This is extremely important to our overall role — we need to know what corporate strategies are happening; what their mandates are, their focus areas and so on.
For example, if Transnet announces it’s looking for female entrepreneurs, we need to know that, so that we can assist them in finding and filling those opportunities. We’re the conduit; we need to know everyone and everything. This takes up around three hours in the morning, and then I’m ready for my day.”
How you create your day is personal — it should suit your personal productivity needs. The trick is to pay attention to what those needs are, and then create a schedule that supports them.
Understand when you are — and aren’t — productive
For Matsi, office time is essential — but it isn’t productive. “The day-to-day busyness of an office is the enemy of strategic thinking,” says Matsi.
“I’ve found that batching my time is the most effective way to get the most out of a week. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are admin days and office days. Any staff meetings, team catch-ups and status updates happen on these days. Tuesdays and Thursdays are for external meetings.
There will always be exceptions, but it helps to have the rule in place. I reserve Sunday afternoons for my strategic thinking sessions. This requires a quiet and calm environment, and it won’t happen unless you create the time and space for it.”
Batching time is an efficient and effective way to get through urgent tasks and priority tasks — without letting urgent tasks draw you away from high priority issues that need to be addressed. Often, if you haven’t made time for strategy for example, it falls by the way-side. The trap of ‘busyness’ is one of the biggest detractors of growth.
Mentally preparing for each day plays a big role in the overall success of that day, and determines whether goals and targets are met or missed.
Designing Her Destiny
Oh Yay! owner, Emmerentia van den Hoven does business her way.
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.”
Watch List: 50 Black African Women Entrepreneurs To Watch
These female entrepreneurs are breaking barriers, transforming industries and inspiring change on the continent.
From creatives, to tech gurus and medical scientists, here’s how these African women have revolutionised their communities through their innovative and sustainable businesses:
- Portia Mngomezulu
- Nandi Dlepu
- Nthabiseng Ramaboa
- Ntombenhle Khathwane
- Sunshine Shibambo
- Mogau Seshoene
- Nontando Molefe
- Thato Kgathlanye
- Nothando Moleketi
- Allegro Dinkwanyane
- Sandra Mwiihangele
- Shakeela Tolasade Williams
- Reabetswe Ngwane
- Mabel Suglo
- Lucy Agwunobi
- Patience Maame Mensah
- Rachel Sibande
- Nneile Nkholise
- Nelisiwe Masango
- Sheila Afari
- Samke Mhlongo
- Kelebogile Mabunda
- Aisha Pandor
- Karabo Mathang-Tshabuse
- Zanele Matome
- Shingai Nyagweta
- Funke Bucknor-Obruthe
- Vere Shaba
- Khanya Mzongwana
- Portia Masimula
- Monalisa Molefe
- Nozipho Dube
- Rapelang Rabana
- Botlhale Tshetlo
- Lebo Mphela
- Sarinah Matema-Morgans
- Tsholo Wesi
- Theo Mothoa-Frendo
- Palesa Sibeko
- Mokgadi Mabela
- Sibongile Sambo
- Tam de Vries
- Constance Mapule Bhebhe
- Phendu Kuta
- Linda Mabhena-Olagunju
- Nobesuthu Ndlovu
- Regina Luki Kgatle
- Hlengiwe Vilakati
- Lilian Muhammed
- Bonolo Mataboge
Starting a business is not for the faint of heart, but that didn’t stop these 50 women from doing it. Across the continent, women have pursued entrepreneurship, some for the very first time at 50 years old, while others have never even been formally employed.
Owner Of Nouwens Carpets Shares Success Lessons From Running A 50 Year Old Family Business
Embrace technology every chance you get.
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.”
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
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