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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Where Others Have Failed To Execute Prudence Spratt Have Hit The Sweet Spot

Savvy start-up decisions focused on long-term goals over short-term gains are helping Prudence Spratt build a consulting firm that aims to be the go-to name in ecommerce project management.

Nadine Todd




Vital Stats

  • Player: Prudence Spratt
  • Company: Spratt Consulting
  • Associations: Member of the GIBS Entrepreneurship Club
  • Launched: 2013
  • Visit:

Prudence Spratt left a successful corporate career after completing her MBA at the Gordon Institute of Business Science to launch her own business because she spotted a need and realised that despite moving up the corporate ladder, corporate life wasn’t for her.

These are the top five start-up lessons she’s learnt while building her ecommerce project management firm.

1. Find and meet a need

If, like Spratt, you know that you’re not cut out for the corporate world (or at least, as someone with a boss in the corporate world), then the first step is figuring out what you have to offer your potential customers. What do they need?

Related: 13 Female Entrepreneurs Rising To The Top

Spratt’s background was project and programme management, and she had worked for some of the biggest networking companies in the business, including Internet Solutions, Dimension Data and Cisco, and was the ecommerce product manager at Vodacom.

“Working within large organisations, I realised there was a need for smaller firms that are ecommerce project management experts who understand corporate needs and systems, and yet are not subject to the same red tape and bureaucracy. Big digital consultancy firms can take up to a year to complete a project. There’s a lot of red tape on both sides. If you take that away you can execute faster.

“Consultants that are experts in managing these projects are highly specialised and very expensive. The result is that agencies often end up doing that component of the project as well, even though it’s not their area of expertise.

“By analysing the situation I could see that there was a big gap for a consultancy that can do what big firms can do, but at a more affordable rate. Plus, we could execute projects faster, and that entrepreneurial agility is a real differentiator.

“Looking at the ecommerce landscape and critically analysing it gave me the confidence that there was a need that my particular skill set could fill.”

2. Get your foot in the door

No matter how much experience you have, or how good your reputation is within your industry circles, you still need to find and secure your first clients. Spratt had a very specific strategy in this regard.

“I targeted projects in distress,” she explains. “Projects that are in need of rescue tend to be toxic, stressful environments. Everyone hates each other, things are going wrong, it’s costing money and the client needs help. No one wants to step into a mess, and so it’s an easy sell, first because something needs to be done to salvage the project, and second, because you’re offering your services in an area that everyone else is trying to avoid.

“It was an extremely stressful space to launch the business, because I was stepping into such a negative space, but doing a few of them gave me the experience and more importantly the confidence to approach other clients.

“Execution is where people often fall down, and that’s our sweet spot. Successful project management encompasses everything, from start to finish, keeping the online and offline user experience top of mind.”

Related: Make A Distinctive Impression With House Of Janine

3. Don’t lose focus


Like many entrepreneurs, Spratt has bootstrapped her business, the only investment a cash pay-out from her corporate pension, and her access bond and credit cards. The result was that in the early days cash was a scarce commodity.

“You end up taking anything that pays money, and for me, that was anything related to digital,” says Spratt.

The problem was that Spratt Consulting was meant to be a company that specialised in big ecommerce projects. “Instead, I found that we were quickly becoming another digital agency,” she says.

“I don’t believe South Africa needs another agency. That was red waters, full of competitors. It’s also not where my skill set actually lies. I can do it, but we were never going to be leaders if all we did was social media and ad buying. There are other agencies far better than us. In project management though, we could be the industry leaders.

“I had to put the brakes on any agency work and focus on what I wanted the business to be: A consulting firm with a digital development arm.

“The development side of the business functions independently but can also complement the consulting side, mainly because I often can’t find good developers, or the existing team has let the client down.

“Focusing on these two core areas meant saying no to agency work at first, which was essentially saying no to revenue, and that was difficult. It’s something you really need to wrap your head around, especially when there are bills to be paid.

“But it also opened up the time to find and say yes to the work I wanted to take on, and that was how we were going to build the business in the direction we wanted to go.”

4. Never stop selling

Keep your pipeline full. That’s one of the toughest lessons Spratt had to learn the hard way. “In consulting I’m the project manager, but it can’t consume me on the execution side. I also need to be the person out there selling, keeping the pipeline full. In the early days we’d finish a project and I’d realise that I’d been so busy executing the job that I hadn’t been out selling, making sure we had the next job. The result was big gaps between projects — gaps where no revenue was coming in.

“Selling was something I’d never done before. I’d had lots of roles, and sales support was one of them, but I’d never had to hustle. Initially it was a bit scary, but the thought of losing the business and not having an income was scarier, and so you push on.

“It helped that I believed in what I was doing. I felt like I was helping my clients. If you believe enough, it almost doesn’t feel like selling. But either way, you have to be out there doing it. It’s only later, once you’re more established, that business starts coming your way. You can’t expect that as a start-up.”

Related: Tech Can Be A Powerful Tool For Achieving Gender Equality

5. Create your culture

This is important from the very beginning of your start-up journey. Get your foundations right and the rest will follow. For Spratt, her methodology, control and the tools she uses are what set her apart from other project managers.

“There’s a very specific way I want Spratt Consulting to operate, and this needs to be taught,” she says. “I can’t rely on consultants and freelancers to do things my way without being trained in my methodology.”

Spratt works with new members of the team. “They shadow me, learning my processes before running their own projects. It takes longer, but the right foundations are being laid. Ultimately, I need the Spratt Consulting name to have a strong reputation without the need for me to personally execute a project, and that means taking the time to upskill my team.”

Do this

Critically evaluate each decision you make according to your original vision: Is it working towards that vision, or is it a short-term win that actually moves you away from your business goals?

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

Company Posts

Designing Her Destiny

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

QuickBooks SA




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.”

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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




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


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


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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