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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Siyaduma Auto Ferriers: Nicci Scott

A female entrepreneur takes on the big guns in the male-dominated vehicle transport industry, and claims the lion’s share of the market.

Juliet Pitman

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Nicci Scott

“There are hundreds of industries out there just waiting for entrepreneurs with better ideas and better service to shake them up,” says Nicci Scott, founder of Siyaduma Auto Ferriers. At the age of 21, without any experience, she gave the male-dominated vehicle transportation industry a shake-up it’s not likely to soon forget.

With a model to rival the existing labour broker model, Scott launched National Auto Ferriers (Siyaduma’s predecessor) in 1995, specialising in ferrying car rental company vehicles across the length and breadth of the country. Within two years the company owned 87% of the car rental market. When the industry landscape changed in 1999, Scott  refocused her attention to specialise in the commercial vehicle transportation market. Today Siyaduma boasts an impressive 78% share of this market, which is set to increase with the recent signing of a lucrative contract with
Mercedes-Benz.

Scott was named Topco’s 2010 Top Young Woman Entrepreneur and the company walked off with the Top Woman Owned Company award and the Top Gender Empowered Company in the Transport Sector award.

Doing it differently

There have been many success factors along the way – Scott’s innovative business approach, her singular focus on adherence to standards, her pioneering work in transforming the industry and her refusal to lie down and die even when competitors got cut-throat. But most of all it was her ability to bring a different take to an industry that had been doing things the same way for years.

Working for six months in a labour broking firm servicing the car rental industry convinced her that there had to be a better way of doing things. “The labour broker approach was simply to supply drivers for vehicles. There was very little screening, and virtually no quality control or standards. I realised there was a business gap if someone could provide such a service,” she explains.

She approached the CEO of Avis with her idea and received a letter of intent to do business as her reward. With this in hand she approached the bank, applying for and receiving R40 000 in start-up capital and 20 petrol cards. “We provided insurance, fuelling en route, a vehicle cleaning service and managed the logistics, convoys and deliveries,” Scott relates.

Expanding into new markets

The business soon caught the eye of the vehicle manufacturers, from whom the company would collect new vehicles. “At the time, they were moving vehicles on vehicle carriers, which meant they would have to wait until the carrier was full before being able to transport any vehicles. We could put a driver in a car and have it at the dealer by the next day,” Scott explains.

Changing lanes

In 2000 the market changed, with car rental companies cutting costs. Scott saw a new market in commercial vehicles and closed out the car rental side of the business, focusing all her energy on this new area. Building on her existing reputation, she landed as a first client the entire MAN truck and bus contract. This was followed by the likes of Volvo, Nissan Diesel and Isuzu.

Scott soon discovered that the industry faced significant chalenges. “It is short of about 45 000 drivers so the people who you work with are often ill and overworked. I found I could only employ around 20% of the drivers I interviewed,” Scott explains.

To raise her standard of service, and that of the industry as a whole, she launched a driver training academy with MAN.

“These trucks cost millions and our job is to get them to their destination as safely and efficiently as possible,” Scott says. Improving driver skills is one part of this. She’s also collaborated with a trucking supplier to develop a mobile tracking device as existing devices can’t be fitted to new vehicles that are being delivered to their owners.

Taking credit

The Topco awards gave Scott pause to look back on the company’s success. “It was unexpected – I didn’t have the courage to invite any of my customers to the award ceremony,” she says, “It’s still an old boys club and I still get asked if my father started the company.” For a woman not used to seeing obstacles, these things amount to little more than irritations, however. “The past 15 years have not been easy but the awards gave me a chance to sit back and say ‘Look what we’ve achieved’ – and that’s gratifying,” she concludes.

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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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

quickbooks-business_emmerentia-van-den-hoven

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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