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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Xoliswa Daku of Daku Group’s Top Lessons For Growth To Inspire Yours

Xoliswa Daku believes in creating wealth through property developments. This principle has been her guiding star, helping her take an R18 million business to R100 million in under four years, while building a sustainable base of R800 million in assets under management. Her growth strategy has evolved thanks to intense and continuous personal development. These are her lessons in growth.

Nadine Todd

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Xoliswa Daku of Daku Group

Vital stats

  • Player: Xoliswa Daku
  • Company: Daku Group
  • Launched: 2003
  • Turnover: R100 million
  • What they do: Investment, infrastructure and property development
  • Visit: dakugroup.co.za

Xoliswa Daku completed her law degree knowing she would one day be an entrepreneur. At the time she thought she would eventually have her own law practice, instead of heading up a R100-million property development business, with R800 million in assets under management. These are her lessons for growth.

1. Do what you love

If there is such a thing as the first rule of successful business ownership, it’s this: Do what you love. True passion will not only see you through challenging times, but keep you focused on your ultimate goals as well.

Too many businesses water down their value propositions or get distracted chasing revenue, to the ultimate detriment of the company’s long-term growth strategies.

Xoliswa learnt this lesson the hard way, but has significantly grown her asset base and margins since realising her company was losing its way.

“I began my corporate career at a legal firm, and within a year was head-hunted and offered a position at Wesgro, the official tourism, trade & investment promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape,” says Xoliswa.

Related: (Slideshow) Oprah Winfrey: The World’s Most Influential Woman

“Wesgro was full of economists, but they needed a legal person to assist with policy. The move introduced me to the worlds of business development and marketing, and it was then that I fell in love with the whole process of finding greenfield spaces and packaging an entire development deal, from the investors to other business partners.

“When I left the agency a few years later to join an entrepreneurial business that was in the incentives field, it wasn’t long before I gravitated back to this space. My love for it was the deciding factor, and it’s what has driven me, even when things got tough.”

As with many growing businesses, Xoliswa was so busy chasing growth that she lost her way. “When you start out, you’ll do anything to keep cash flowing into the business. I was consulting as well, and would tackle any needs a client had, from legal issues to BEE and marketing queries. The problem was that it diluted our brand. We had grown to a business with an R18 million turnover, and people were constantly asking me what it was that we actually did. I realised my entire business model was reactive, rather than proactive, and it was entirely my fault. I had no chance of growing a large business if we didn’t focus on our core areas.”

Xoliswa made the decision to offload some of the company’s products and focus. This is where passion played its role, because it helped her determine exactly where she wanted to focus Daku Group’s energies.

The lesson: High-growth organisations are proactive, not reactive. No business can be the master of everything. Choose your niche, focus on which opportunities give you the best margins and above all, ensure you’re following your passion. The more specialist a business, the more successful it tends to be.

2. Capitalise on your base

The most successful businesses (and business owners) are exceptionally good at developing a base and then growing it.

For example, Xoliswa launched the Daku Group when she was approached to join the development team for The One and Only Hotel as the project’s BEE partner and shareholder. The reason the team approached her was because of the reputation she had built at Wesgro. Because she came in while the deal was being structured, she was an active partner throughout the deal and development of the hotel.

“If you’re good at what you do, one partnership leads to another,” explains Xoliswa. “The more a market gets to know you and your reputation, the higher your chances of securing a deal. But you also can’t just sit back and expect work and contracts to flow your way. You have to take that solid reputation and make sure you’re getting noticed by the right people. And that takes planning.

“I started out helping other businesses to grow, and then put those lessons to good use in my own company. I also learnt as much as possible about my sector: The various players, the challenges my potential partners faced, and which opportunities worked and which didn’t.

“There’s so much out there, but you need to understand the landscape and what you have to offer before you can approach potential partners and pitch for deals. No one will come find you and offer an amazing opportunity — you have to go out and find it, and prove that you’re the best fit for the deal. To do that, you need a strong base, and that’s built on knowledge, experience, and successful projects that cement your reputation in the market.”

The lesson: If you’re planning for long-term success, approach every pitch, deal and even research strategically. You need to become the expert in your field; your future partners should benefit from working with you, and you need to be able to prove this.

3. Under-promise and over-deliver

Understand your company’s capabilities, and work within them to ensure you over-deliver, rather than over-promise and then let your clients down.

“We were very strategic about the sites we pitched for within the Prasa tender,” explains Xoliswa. The Prasa deal is everything Xoliswa loves: A greenfield infrastructure development project that called for local developers to pitch their ideas around what could be done with the land around Prasa’s interchanges.

“Prasa published an expression of interest. I always pay attention to what’s happening in the space, looking for development opportunities. Once you find out about a project, you then need to market yourself, and think strategically about what the client needs for the entire project to be a success.

“These pitches are at your own expense, so you want to ensure you’re aligning yourself with their needs — otherwise it’s an expensive act in futility that just wastes everyone’s time. When I was at Wesgro, I was mentored by an economist who was nearing retirement. He was extremely knowledgeable and insightful about what makes certain projects a success, and others a failure. For example, he thought Century City in Cape Town wouldn’t work, because the project didn’t include a transport interchange, or residential and office space. He was right. The original developers sold the project and it’s being reworked.

“This gave me great insight into what Prasa needed to successfully launch a national transport interchange. Whilst Prasa presented various opportunities to developers on an open tender system, I opted for three sites and those were awarded to me. I assessed and recognised that I couldn’t do more than that. I believe it’s important to avoid taking on more than you can chew, even at tender stage. It was important to me that the entire project was a success.

“If I’d pitched for more than three sites, I would have been spreading myself too thin, and I knew it. Remember, all the risk areas of the project belong to you as the developer. You’re bringing three things together: The site, resources and capital. But ultimately the risk is yours — the rewards too — but successful projects are completed because the risks have been mitigated.”

This isn’t to say Xoliswa has any interest in being a small business. She’s always aimed high, and wants to move through Africa and beyond. But she’s building careful foundations to ensure a sustainable business that can handle growth and build on it.

The lesson: It’s always good to aim high. Most entrepreneurs have the mantra that they’ll say yes first and then figure out how to do it. In this way, great things are achieved. But you also have to be realistic. Plan for success, ensure you have all the components in place, and then deliver — but don’t over-promise. If you know you have certain limitations, work within them and deliver an exceptional product, rather than over-extending yourself and only achieving a mediocre result.

Related: Celebrating The Multi-Faceted Woman

4. Learning is the gateway to growth

In 2010, Xoliswa enrolled in an Executive MBA at UCT’s Graduate School of Business. When she entered the programme, Daku Group’s turnover was R18 million. By 2014 it was R100 million. During the two-year programme her company’s turnover dipped. This was expected. Running a company while completing an MBA is no easy task, and there were gaps in the business while she focused on her personal and business development.

It had been a strategic decision — some short-term pain and losses for long-term gain.

“My business was seven years old, and I recognised that something was holding us back. We were experiencing growth challenges, and I wasn’t finding a way to move us forward. We had some incredible projects under our belt, but we had hit a ceiling.”

Xoliswa took stock of what she was facing. “First, I was playing across a lot of spaces: Investment and trade, the legal field, women empowerment, and I was struggling to find mentors. People were coming to me to mentor them. That’s flattering, and I want to give back, but mentors have always been critical for me. I felt that my personal development had stalled.”

Studying further seemed to be the only solution. Xoliswa had already completed her law degree, a certificate programme in Economics, the Management Development Programme (MAP) at Stellenbosch University, and a project management course through Cranfield University. An MBA was the next logical step.

“As a lawyer who structured deals, I understood that growth comes from following a clear path. I’d worked on a lot of different elements and now needed to pull those loose threads together. I believed the tools an MBA would give me would help me do that.

“It’s a tough choice. It’s hard work, and you’re spending hours away from your business. I saw the impact of that first hand. Our turnover dropped. But, without the tools and lessons the MBA gave me, I wouldn’t have reached the next level. My growth had stalled. I’d been working on my expertise, my name and reputation. Now I needed to get the right foundations and systems into place for the business.”

The lesson: Great business leaders never stop focusing on their own personal development. The more you learn — particularly across disciplines — the more you’ll achieve. Business courses, business books, podcasts, mentors and associations are just some of the ways you can hone your skills and learn from your peers.

5. It’s all about the balance sheet

One of the biggest lessons Xoliswa has learnt along her journey is that in many respects, a high turnover is just vanity.

“For a long time we were chasing cash, and it led to far too much diversification in the business. For example, I launched a construction company so that we could build our own developments. The result was two-fold. We diluted ourselves too much, instead of staying niche and focused, and we increased our risk exponentially.

“It’s great to say you’re developing a project worth more that R200 million, but your exposure is R7 million. In those terms, it’s not as valuable. Instead, we made the decision in 2014 to partner with experts, shorten our turnaround time for implementation, focus on maximum returns instead of turnover, and to build our assets under management.

“As a result of this shift in strategy — which is designed to build real wealth — our turnover hasn’t grown since 2014, but we’ve grown our assets under management to R800 million, and we’ve increased our margins. The business is in a much healthier space.”

The lesson: Understand your strategy, and what you’re trying to achieve. A high turnover is meaningless if you’ve got poor cash reserves and limited assets. On the other hand, higher margins can be far more valuable than a high turnover. At the end of the day, it’s all about the balance sheet.

Related: Hold the Testosterone: Must a Woman Behave Like a Man to Succeed?


Lessons from an MBA

MBA

An MBA is a large investment, from both a monetary and time perspective. Given the hours of sleep she was losing, Xoliswa was determined to make the most of her Executive MBA through GSB, and to implement what she was learning in her business.

“The reality is that you can be the darling of your industry, with an exceptional reputation, and a decent business — but then the realities of growth set in. Cash flow is a problem, management issues, client issues. These happen to all growing businesses. The question is, what are you going to do about them?” Here are the key gaps Xoliswa identified for her own business.

1. What’s my unique selling point?

I realised that I’d become a jack of all trades within my industry. Daku Group had no clear selling proposition. In fact, we were often asked what it was exactly that we did. You can’t be the go-to player in your industry if no-one is sure precisely what you do. We needed to pare down what we offered, and be more focused and niche. It’s scary at first, but we’ve built a far more robust business by not taking on anything and everything that comes our way.

2. Delegate

I realised I had a disjointed team, with no clear leadership when I wasn’t around. No business owner can be everywhere at once. I needed a senior management team who was on the ground and could build a competent, efficient team. I was outsourcing too much as well, instead of bringing in specialist talent. I realised that I was boxing the business, but not the people. First you need a great team, and then you can build the right financial systems.

3. Understand your strengths

I have no interest in the small stuff. My focus is on creating long-term opportunities through analysis, and providing the right opportunities to investors in synergistic environments. The problem was that even though I don’t like the small stuff, I wasn’t employing people who excel at the finer details. This affected my capital.

As a business owner, your drive, work ethic and independent approach and offering are so important. But you also need to let go. Your teams are the best tools you have to grow your business, but only if you give them the opportunity and space to thrive. Understand what you bring to the business and where the gaps lie, and then find the best people to fill those gaps.

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Women Entrepreneur Successes

How A Serious Car Accident Led Founder Relebohile Moeng To Starting Afri-Berry

The idea of controlling her own destiny and leaving a lasting legacy for her children became a compelling force that gave her boldness and determination to enter an industry she knew nothing about. A year later, Afri-Berry was born. This is her story.

Diana Albertyn

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Vital Stats

  • Player: Relebohile Moeng
  • Position: Founder And Director
  • Company: Afri-Berry
  • Established: 2011
  • Visit: Afri-berry.co.za

Shortly after a car accident left Relebohile with over 150 stitches on her face, her search for affordable solutions to cure her scars led to the launch of her first business.

“I had experienced the amazing healing power of the organic cold pressed argan oil on my face and understood the growth of the middle class and increased spending power across many socio-economic groups in our country. Based on this, I had a strong conviction that not only should organic products be available in speciality stores or organic markets but also in our regular retail stores where we do our day-to-day shopping,” she explains.

“We wanted Afri-Berry to have a share in the R4,3 billion of annual sales that were being made in this market.”

Following her retrenchment in 2010, she and her husband Fabian decided the time was right to do some research into organic skin and hair products. This led to the launch of Afri-Berry in 2011.

What were some of the key challenges that you faced before and during the process of launching Afri-Berry?

As a new player in the beauty sector, developing our business idea in a way that was attractive to retail was our first major challenge. And because the beauty industry has such high barriers to entry, our second major challenge was gaining market share amidst international cosmetic brands.

When you start a business, you must keep overheads down, so initially we built 80% of our team around intern graduates fresh from school, with no work experience. We underestimated the value of hiring experienced employees. This was the most trying time for the business because you may have great employees but if they’re not a team, they will yield nothing but stagnation.

Related: Watch List: 50 Black African Women Entrepreneurs To Watch

How did you overcome these challenges to build your business to what it is today?

afri-berry

The key to our success was the advantage we enjoy in our home market. Mzansi is a great place to do business in because we understand the lingo and the culture. This enables us to compete with aggressive and well-endowed foreign competitors.

We often fine-tune our products and services to the unique needs of our customers. We’ve had to resist the temptation of reaching out to all customers or imitating the multinationals. We believe that we’ll continue to do better by focusing on consumers who appreciate the local touch more than global brands.

When it comes to hiring we’ve learnt that HR can either make or break a business. We’ve learnt to not only hire for skill and experience, but also for culture. We continuously raise the leadership lid on each of our employees and create a conducive atmosphere for them to blossom.

What do you know now that you didn’t know when Afri-Berry was starting out?

Start now — you don’t need funding. Watch out for when you want to do something big but say you can’t until you raise money to fund the idea. It usually means you’re more in love with the idea of being big than with actually doing something useful.

For an idea to grow, it has to be something useful — and being useful doesn’t need funding. If you want to be useful, you can always start right now with just 1% of what you have in your vision. It’ll be a humble prototype of your big vision, but you’ll be in the game. You’ll be ahead of the rest because you actually started, when others waited for the finish line to magically appear at the starting line.

Why do you believe Afri-Berry has reached the level of success it has achieved?

  • We have built a strong team and that has cultivated a culture of positive results and innovation in the business.
  • As a small business we have leveraged our impact by supporting community events and this has allowed us to be a powerful force within our community and gain market share.
  • We have tried our best to be accessible by partnering with some of the major organic stores as well as supermarkets and retail stores. We will soon be listing with Massmart and Clicks stores so that we are there for more of our aspiring customers when needed.
  • We make use of hair and beauty bloggers as well as beauty editors of popular magazines to try our products and endorse them in the public domain. This has given the brand great traction.
  • We continue to share our brand story with South Africans through local magazines and radio platforms offered to us. This has made it easy for them to buy into the brand.
  • We nurture and invest in positive relationships with our stakeholders.

Related: Attention Black Entrepreneurs: Start-Up Funding From Government Grants & Funds

What’s your top advice for other start-ups embarking on their entrepreneurial journey, hoping to achieve your level of success?

Build a business around a problem that you know needs to be solved and that you are passionate about fixing or making better. There will be many long nights and stressful situations ahead but having the passion to fix the problem will get you through every time.

If you have an idea for a start-up, go ahead and start it. The more research you do upfront as to how much work is involved and how much you need to learn could easily put you off. I had no idea when I first started and I’m glad I didn’t! It’s much easier to tackle new tasks once you’ve already got things going.

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Women Entrepreneur Successes

How This Copywriter Made Money Fast Online With Fiverr

Lauren Gouws’, Copywriter and founder of LKM Creative, experience in the gig economy has taught her some hard but golden lessons. She offers her advice for local looking to get going in the gig environment.

Nadine Todd

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lauren-gouws

Vital Stats

  • Entrepreneur: Lauren Gouws
  • Designation: Copywriter and founder of LKM Creative
  • Visit: www.lkmcreative.net

Despite her best efforts, Lauren Gouws (neé Meikle) was a terrible employee. The commute from Pretoria to Joburg every day was depressing, she didn’t like the fact that whether her workload was high or low she earned the same salary, and she was realising that the inflexibility of an eight to five job didn’t suit her.

So, she did what many budding entrepreneurs have done. One evening, she got home and Googled ‘How to make money online’ — and discovered the world of the gig economy. “I couldn’t quit my job because I had bills to pay and needed an income, but I also knew I wanted to be my own boss,” says Lauren.

“You need to be careful, there are a lot of traps, scams and get-rich-quick schemes online. I just wanted to have control over my earning potential. I came across an article that listed ten gig economy websites. Basically, if you have a skill that you can offer digitally, you can sign up to these websites and offer that service — it’s MacDonald’s for services, you place your order and get it within a day or two.”

Lauren is a copywriter, but gig economy sites cater for web developers, consultants, coders, designers, writers and more. “Fiverr is the website I’ve found success on. Within a few hours work started coming in.”

Lauren began her Fiverr journey in September 2015 while she was still working full time. “I couldn’t quit immediately, it was too big a risk, so I spent my evenings on my Fiverr orders and worked during the day. For three months I was sleeping two to three hours a night. I needed to match my salary before I could quit — that was the deal I made with myself.”

Within three months Lauren had doubled her salary. Three months after that, she had quit her job, and was focused full-time on her Fiverr clients. She was 25 years old. Today, her income is ten times what it was three years ago, she works from home, to her own schedule and has a level of flexibility that was impossible while she was a full-time employee.

“I work hard, from 7am to 7pm, but that’s my choice. I love that the more I put in, the more I get out. All I need is a laptop, so I can go anywhere and carry on doing what I do. Fiverr also has an out-of-office function, so I could choose to only work two or three weeks a month, if that’s what I wanted. The flexibility and freedom of the gig economy has changed my life.”

Related: 20 South African Side-Hustles You Can Start This Weekend

According to Lauren’s ‘world domination percentage’ on Fiverr, she has written copy and scripts for 57% of the countries in the world — mostly the US and India, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Scotland. “I’ve been exposed to so many projects, countries and industries. It’s been an incredible experience.”

The rand dollar exchange doesn’t hurt either. For a writer based in South Africa but earning US dollars, Lauren’s income is far beyond anything she could have achieved as an employee. It has also changed other aspects of Lauren’s life. The time she spent in traffic is now dedicated to income-producing hours, building her business and brand. The increased income meant Lauren could buy a house and travel the world with her husband, visiting new destinations every year, while still saving for her future.

Maximising opportunities in the gig economy

“When you sign up to a gig website, you create your profile and gigs. For example, my profile says, ‘Hi, I’m Lauren, I’m a copywriter — if you need a script you can place your order’. My gig is $5 per 25 words, and clients can order as many of the gig as they need.”

Of course, Lauren has raised the price of her gig since she started. “I looked at what other people charged to determine my price point at the beginning, and I also started at less than I would have liked to get noticed. As my gig got more popular and I literally couldn’t manage the workload, I increased my prices. I did this slowly and steadily. First it was $5 for 150 words, then as my jobs got unmanageable, I made it $5 for 100 words, then $5 for 50 words, and now it’s $5 for 25 words.

“The customers who really love you will stay with you and pay more and sometimes I give discounts if it’s a massive order. The trick is to have confidence in your quality. Clients who tell me I’m too expensive leave, but most come back, choosing quality over price.”

According to Lauren, there’s an overall understanding that gigs that are more expensive are higher quality. “The people who do a lot of gigs for a very cheap rate either aren’t experienced enough or they don’t know how the gig economy works and they want as much work as possible — but they’re rushing jobs and not giving them enough time and attention.

“By comparison, if you’re charging more you will put more effort into it — you have less orders, but they are more expensive. You can focus more energy on each task throughout the day and people trust that — they don’t really trust cheap gigs.”

Lauren’s turnaround time is five days, although an additional fee ensures express delivery. Lauren has built up the confidence to have tough conversations with clients, particularly around price, but she does caution that in the gig economy, the customer is king. “You cannot mess with your public reviews,” she says. “They can’t be removed. If you’re rude or too stern with a client and you receive a one-star review, it’s there forever, so no matter how difficult a buyer is, you have to treat them like gold.”

Sites like Fiverr work on reputation — good reviews, delivering quality content on time and being active on the site improve your search results, which in turn boost your business.

“When you start out, it’s essential to get your reviews going. It’s more important to do as much work as possible to build your reputation than what you charge. You can start increasing your prices once you’ve built your reputation.”

Another key to success is that the secret lies in product differentiation. “I joined Fiverr at a good time when it was still being discovered by many people and companies. While it’s a little more challenging to master now, it’s certainly not impossible. You just have to think out-the-box. Think of something you can offer that is in high-demand, and set yourself apart. Why should people choose you instead of the person in the gig next to yours in search results? Flaunt your credentials: Passion. Skills. Tenacity. You can also add a gig ‘video,’ not just a picture, which can shoot you further up search results for more visibility and trust. Share your gigs everywhere online. Ultimately, success is in your hands.”

Related: How To Start A Side Hustle Without Quitting Your Day Job

Gig Economy websites to get you started

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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Woman Of Stature Share 5 Lessons In Finding Your Purpose, Pursuing Passions And Leading A Full And Successful Life

Woman of Stature is an organisation that plans to give South Africa its next generation of high-impact entrepreneurs, ministers and even a president. Here’s how the ideals of success mindset and living your purpose are shaping a new breed of empowered women.

Nadine Todd

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Vital Stats

  • Players: Charlotte du Plessis (founder of Woman of Stature and MD), Lynn Hill (WOS director and Inspirational Speaker, Trainer and Life Coach) and Sue Moodley (WOS director and founder of Pluminco Trade).
  • Business: Woman of Stature
  • Launched: 2013
  • Visit: www.womanofstature.co.za

When Charlotte du Plessis founded Woman of Stature (originally named Woman of Substance), it was because she wanted to create a network of women who could support each other and share skills as well as life and business lessons.

What started as a side-project soon consumed more and more time, until eventually she made the decision to sell her eventing business and focus on Woman of Stature full-time. Passion, purpose and business combined to not only give Charlotte a clear goal, but one that she could share with others, and that would hopefully live on as a brand well beyond her own name as the founder and current MD.

In 2018, she asked Lynn Hill and Sue Moodley to join her as directors. As an entrepreneur herself, Sue’s focus is the growth of the brand and platform, while Lynn’s background in training and her experience as a speaker will shape the training programmes that Woman of Stature offers its members and the public.

Charlotte, Sue and Lynn share their lessons in finding your purpose, pursuing passions and ultimately leading full and successful lives.

1. You are in control of your own destiny

Sue Moodley started her business 21 years ago with just R4 000. Her father had been retrenched, and they decided to launch a business of their own. He was a salesman, she a born entrepreneur, even at the age of 19. Today Pluminco Trade has supplied plumbing and building products to some of the biggest construction projects in the country, including OR Tambo International Airport and Emperor’s Palace Hotel.

“The key is to just do it,” says Sue. “I believe that there’s no excuse for remaining poverty-stricken, struggling as a single mom or relying on a man. There are so many ways to make money, so many things to sell. You just need to be willing to step out of your comfort zone and make the change.

“It won’t always be easy. Our business still hasn’t completely recovered from the 2008 recession. I’ve lost millions, but I’ve kept going. I’ve dropped my GPs on certain things so that my product turnover is better, I’ve slowed some projects down, committing to four years instead of two years, but through it all I haven’t given up. We are in control of our own destiny. It’s important to remember that.”

Related: Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs

2. Start by showing up

It was Sue’s desire to share the lessons she’d learnt, build up her personal brand and learn from others in different situations that led her to Woman of Stature. “We’re a multi-racial organisation that accepts members from 17 years up,” she says. “It’s incredible what you can learn from people when you’re in an environment where you’ll find someone who shares your background and culture as well as people who come from completely different walks of life. You just need to be open to taking it all in.”

This was exactly what Charlotte had in mind when she first founded Woman of Stature. She wanted to be able to network with like-minded women who shared her values, but also to create an environment where women could learn from each other and share their stories and experiences.

“We believe in self-actualisation,” says Charlotte. “I attended an event a few years ago and the theme was ‘Africans come uninvited’, and it really struck a chord with me. That’s what we stand for. Anyone can join us. Come and take a seat at the table — but what you do with that seat is up to you. Over the years we’ve seen that the truly successful people in life seize opportunities and run with them. They don’t wait for things to happen — they make them happen.”

3. Everyone has a purpose — you just need to live it

sue-moodley

Much of what Woman of Stature stands for is upliftment. Sue talks about who you see when you look in the mirror each day, because if you don’t believe in yourself, you can’t expect anyone else to, but there is also a strong sense that no-one is locked into their current fate.

“We always tell our members to look beyond themselves,” says Charlotte. “Step one is networking. Once you start hearing stories that are similar to your own, you realise you’re not alone. From there, you can begin to share, learn and build yourself up, whether it’s a self-confidence issue, building a personal brand or finding your purpose. We all have a purpose, and once you start living that purpose you find success.”

Finding and living your purpose is one of Lynn Hill’s passions, not only for herself, but others, and has played a key role in the coaching, consulting and training she does for corporates and entrepreneurs.

“We often talk about finding our purpose, but that’s not correct,” she says. “You are your purpose; you can’t separate yourself from your talents and gifts. What we need to do is recognise our purpose, and to do that, you need to know who you are. What makes you tick? What are your gifts, talents and passions? What gives you joy?

“Usually, these are the questions that lead us to our inherent gifts and talents. When we learn to express these, we find our purpose. The real secret to purpose is that it’s innately unselfish. When we use our talents to uplift humanity — in whatever form that takes, from solving big problems to acts of kindness and compassion — purpose is achieved.”

For Lynn, people who fail to find their purpose haven’t come to terms with who they really are. “We get caught up in being competitive and comparative,” she says. “We compare ourselves to others’. We want what someone else has, and end up trying to copy a gift or talent, instead of being authentic to ourselves. Never underestimate your uniqueness. You are your most perfect at just being yourself. We don’t focus on that enough.”

At its core, this is what Woman of Stature offers its members. Charlotte believes that you can’t separate business from life, and if you want to run a successful company, you need to first lead a successful life. “It’s about you as an individual,” she says. “You need to develop everything inside you in the best possible way so that you can live a purpose-driven life.”

Interestingly, it’s clear from Charlotte, Sue and Lynn’s journeys that your purpose and passions evolve, and that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams.

Charlotte left the corporate world to launch her first business at the age of 50. Her experiences as an entrepreneur as well as losing her mother to breast cancer led her to forming a charity and then Woman of Stature. The realisation that this was where her true purpose lay meant she then sold her business to focus full-time on empowering women. Lynn’s current focus is to share her message with as many people as possible, which she’s doing through her writing and speaking and Sue wants to share her experiences with other women to give them hope and inspiration.

Related: 13 Female Entrepreneurs Rising To The Top In SA

4. Embrace a success mindset

Ultimately, organisations like Woman of Stature are designed to promote a success mindset, through networking, training and motivating or inspiring others.

“I believe a success mindset is a mindset of excellence,” says Lynn. “It’s a mindset where you don’t simply aspire towards excellent standards, but where you begin to normalise standards of excellence to a point where you embody them. It’s the belief that mediocrity is a sin.

“Once you embrace a success mindset, you move beyond a goal and acquisition focus and recognise that the means is as significant as the end. As a result, quality relationship-building happens as part of pursuing those goals.

“When we are able to move beyond the traditional idea of success, we also focus on significance: The fact that our success does not just impact our own lives, but the lives of others. That’s when we begin to make meaningful contributions to those around us and even whole communities.”

5. Success is a team effort

lynn-hill

The reason why Charlotte took the step to invite Lynn and Sue into her business is because they were already exceptional women in her life. “We became friends through networking first,” she says. “There’s a lot to be said for first forming a friendship. You need to do business with people you trust, like and have shared values with. It’s one of the reasons why networking and joining associations is so important. It allows you to build relationships and trust.”

Like Charlotte, Sue had lost her mother to breast cancer, and the two felt an instant kinship, particularly as Woman of Stature supports the same charity that Sue supports, Breast Health Foundation. Once the relationship was built, it was natural for Sue to take an interest in the organisation, and even become an angel investor based on her experience with the brand and its impact.

“It’s difficult to build something from the ground up,” says Charlotte. “No one can do it alone. You need to be able to rely on family, friends and associates to build something that lasts. You also need to be able to exchange knowledge. We all have dreams, but if you’re really going to build a sustainable brand and business, you need the business acumen to back it up. We tend to focus on the great idea, and what we love and are passionate about, but need the business side too. The associations and networks that I’ve built up aren’t only about emotional support — it’s about that knowledge exchange. It’s about mentoring each other and sharing advice and lessons.”

“You need to give to receive,” agrees Sue. “We all learn from each other. It’s a two-way street though. Networking isn’t about what you can take — it’s about mutual growth.”

Much of what Woman of Stature does is built on this concept, including its Impact Circle training programme. “Impact Circle is a self-development and entrepreneurial development training programme, and all the trainers are members,” says Lynn. “We’ve drawn from our own network, both to support our members who are in this field and to give everyone more access to each other.”

Through this vision, Charlotte, Sue and Lynn are planning to make a real difference in South Africa’s business, social and political landscape. “We’re fostering future ministers and presidents,” says Sue. “Shakira Chumara, whose goal is to be Minister of Health, says that her shift happened at Woman of Stature. We opened her eyes to a vision larger than herself. That’s the ethos of everything we stand for.”

“Our goal is to empower women to do the incredible things they were born to do,” says Charlotte. “And that takes a vision bigger than my own, and a brand that’s much more than just me. It takes like-minded people banding together to achieve great things.”

Related: Watch List: 50 Black African Women Entrepreneurs To Watch

Be the change

Woman of Stature (WOS) is an organisation that was founded by Charlotte du Plessis in 2013. In 2017 she stepped away from her business to focus full-time on growing WOS’s membership and community impact. Lynn Hill and Sue Moodley joined WOS as directors in 2018.

Originally created as a platform for women from all walks of life that was committed to empowering women to live their purpose and reach their full potential, WOS has grown from a networking association and a member’s directory into an organisation that includes training and a speaker’s bureau.

Current training programmes include 5 Pillars of Empowerment, a corporate-sponsored, accredited Enterprise Development training programme, and Impact Circle, a self-development and entrepreneurial development training programme. There is also a Speakers Academy, designed to train women who want to become professional speakers and entrepreneurs and executives who want to build their confidence in front of an audience, and the Woman of Impact Speakers Bureau, a professional bureau representing woman speakers.

WOS also hosts an annual awards programme, celebrating women across various industries and sectors.

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