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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Joyce Mnguni Lives Out Her Dreams Helping Others Tie-The-Knot In Mexico

Joyce Mnguni has built her dream business by taking leaps out of her comfort zones, again and again and again… and she’s never regretted a single decision.

Nadine Todd

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Joyce Mnguni is South African, born and bred, but she’s living her entrepreneurial dreams as a sought-after wedding planner and co-ordinator in Mexico.

Her experiences over the past decade have taught her two very important lessons: First, that facing your fears and stepping out of your comfort zone will give you wings, and second, that serving others not only builds strong and sustainable businesses, but is extremely rewarding and fulfilling.

Traversing the Atlantic

So how did Joyce end up in Mexico? She did it as many travellers do, via cruise ships. “I studied at the Capital School of Hotel and Tourism. It was selective and limited. We had to work hard, but it opened up enormous opportunities for us. It was an early introduction to the lesson that hard work, discipline and dedication are respected qualities, so nurture them.”

Upon completing her school years, Joyce had the choice of university, working at a 5-star hotel, or joining a cruise ship. Eager to travel, she chose the latter option. It was a big leap for someone who had never travelled, but she wanted to see the world and open her horizons.

Related: 11 Secrets Of South African Entrepreneurs On Making It To The Top

“It was incredible. The experience showed me how grounded South Africans are, and how deep our values run, but I also realised how big the world is. There are so many opportunities out there, and anyone can do it. You just have to be willing to try. Step out of your comfort zone. It’s tough, but hugely rewarding.”

The 20-year old Joyce met her future husband on the cruise ship, and he convinced her to holiday in Mexico with him. Once there, he convinced her that this should be their new home once their contracts ran out.

“I literally didn’t know where Mexico was when he first asked. But it was an adventure, and I’d already learnt that we need to try new things. The worst that could happen was that I’d hate it and go back to the cruise ships.”

Fighting the fear in a new country

The move wasn’t easy. It was extremely hot (even for a South African), Joyce didn’t speak the language, and she was afraid. “There was real fear in me. I remember it so well. I had to find a way to conquer it.”

Step one was overcoming the language barrier, and so Joyce enrolled in adult classes.

“I went to school Monday to Friday to learn Spanish. It was intense. The teacher spoke zero English and I spoke zero Spanish. But it was a baptism of fire and I learnt. Within a month I received a job offer as an elite concierge at a luxury villa on the beach. Kings, queens and celebrities vacationed there. It was highly elite and confidential. We were never allowed to reveal who was there. My experience made me a perfect fit for the concierge, my English helped me with guests, and my limited Spanish meant I could be a conduit between the front of house and back of house Spanish employees.”

Taking the plunge

Dream Weddings Riviera Maya

It was a dream job, but for Joyce it was a way to build experience, contacts and perfect her grasp of Spanish. What she wanted to do was plan weddings. She got certified in it and started looking for a job as an in-house wedding planner. And received one ‘no’ after the next.

“The reasons ranged from being over-qualified to not being Mexican. I was incredibly frustrated,” says Joyce. And so she did the only thing she could, she started studying private sector wedding planning companies. What did they do right? What did they do wrong? Where was the gap? “I recognised that service was a big problem in the industry, and that was exactly what I was good at.”

Joyce had warned her boss that this was her dream, and as soon as she had enough saved up and a website running, she took the plunge. “I had conditioned myself to take leaps,” she says. “I had learnt that growth comes from actively looking for the next big thing. I’m a big believer in continuously finding ways to grow, pushing myself further and stretching my limits.

“When change does come, it will always be uncomfortable; so you have to push through it. I’d rather be in control of that change, choosing it and using it to my benefit, than tossed about.”

Related: Busi Skenjana’s Two Core Rules Of Entrepreneurship

Be true to yourself

Joyce had been right about her service differentiator. She secured two clients, and both gave her excellent referrals. The word-of-mouth marketing did its job, and soon international clients were lining up for Joyce’s personal touch.

“My core goal is to help my clients have their dream wedding. It’s a very personal experience, and they’re trusting me with it, so I have to ensure that they’re getting what they envision. My entire business is built on personal referrals, so this is essential. I predominantly work with international guests who are getting married in Mexico, but not based there. We do everything online until they arrive just before the wedding.”

The result is that Joyce not only needs to be highly focused and organised, but she needs to know she can work with her clients as well.

Be true to yourself, your business, and your brand

“You need to be true to yourself. This is your business, your brand and reputation. Don’t compromise on that. In my first consultation call with a new client, I critically evaluate if we can work together. Not everyone can. It’s an important day for them and me. I never want to take on a client who isn’t a perfect fit. When I see we’re misaligned, I’m open and honest about it. It’s better for both of us to not work together, and so I walk away.”

Joyce is treating her growth in the same way. Her brand has grown beyond her ability to service all of her clients herself, and so she contracts other wedding co-ordinators to assist her.

Uplift businesses in your value chain

“We’re becoming a wedding co-ordination agency. I plan each wedding and then hand it over to a co-ordinator. I find people who are starting out and don’t have clients. They need to build up their reputation, and I need co-ordinators. I vet them extensively though; this is my brand. They have to first be an assistant at one of my weddings to see me in action and so that I can evaluate them. Letting go was a challenge, but I’ve learnt to recognise individuals who view service in the same way I do. I can’t grow without them.”

Joyce is now bringing this experience back to South Africa. She plans to spend two months a year in her home country mentoring entrepreneurs. “I really want to help others achieve their dreams,” she says.

“So many people are scared of running their own businesses. I’m an ordinary person who’s far from home, and I’ve done it. Anyone can do it, you just have to be willing to take the leap.”

Do This

Don’t be afraid to dream big and take big leaps. Growth comes when we push ourselves past our comfort zones.

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

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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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