There’s a lot said about how to ‘get to the next level’ as a professional. Can you explain a little about how you initially broke through in your career to become Founding Director of your own company?
Getting to the next level of a career is something that can both be exciting and very daunting. It requires careful consideration; planning and execution. You must have a clear vision of what you want for your life then your professional career and how you progress it from one level to another is based on and guided by that. I have always been very clear that nobody owes me anything, that I had to really work hard and stay focused to push my career in the direction I wanted it to go.
There truly is no substitute for focused hard work. Building strong relationships across the board also enables you to have multiple sponsors for your career; something critical to progressing to the next level.
I had built up a lot of credibility before I left corporate to run my own company. All the above helped build a great foundation for a career as an entrepreneur and a successful businesswoman because when all is said and done; people buy from people; especially those that they know.
How has winning Veuve Clicquot ELLE Boss 2017 influenced your career path and personal life and would you encourage other women in business to enter?
This award has taken my personal brand to a level I only dreamed of. It fast-tracked so many things for me and so many opportunities have come about as a result. My business has also grown so rapidly since the award with no less than four offers to buy it from significant companies listed on the JSE. That is a great accolade for any entrepreneur; of course, I have not sold as yet.
The exposure that I have received through this platform has brought about overseas business partnerships, listed company board seats; radio shows and television showcases to name but a few. The philanthropic work that I also do has received a great showcase through these awards and I have become even more sought after for motivational talks and mentorships. Oh, did I also mention that I have been on a cover of a magazine?!
It has been such an amazing experience! I am so grateful; I really feel very privileged. I wanted to tell the next winner of the award what it is like; a mere few weeks into it. I am such a big ambassador of the awards because of what they have done for me. I absolutely encourage all deserving and qualifying women to enter. Nominate yourself or get nominated; just do it. Understand what is required and prepare for it but you simply cannot miss an opportunity like this.
As an entrepreneur, time is fleeting and there are no set working hours. How do you know when is enough and what advice would you give your younger self?
One of the biggest blessings in disguise was finding myself on the verge of burn out in my last corporate job. I have always been highly driven and constantly on the go. I always operated at high octane levels and was nothing short of a super woman. One day my body just refused to keep taking the abuse; I had to really stop and re-look my life. I had to decide what was important.
I started my own company and left corporate to run it so that I could be in charge of my own time and decide what to do with it.
In the initial stages of the business you pretty much do everything so time is very limited but I always set out to build a business that could run independently of me so that I could free up my time. I achieved that by employing the right people and putting the right processes and controls in place. I have developed great rhythm since I left corporate and my body screams when I have been over exerting myself.
I am also fortunate enough to have my three children who are my conscience. I can assure you they do not hold back. They demand what is theirs. I would definitely tell my younger self to distinguish between perfection and excellence. To me; excellence is about giving the best of your ability and accept that you cannot control everything. I now accept things I cannot change and it is so liberating.
What qualities do you believe are most important to be a leader? If these qualities did not come naturally, can you give any tips on how to cultivate them?
I am such a big believer in servant leadership. I always feel like I work for my staff; not the other way around. I care about their well-being and I put that above everything else. I cannot see it at any other way. It is a big responsibility to be a leader. You have the power the build or destroy people’s lives. You have to understand and appreciate that and hold the responsibility very dearly.
I choose to build people’s lives; at least help them to do that. I think that is a good way to start learning how to be a great leader.
Put the people first in everything you do. Understand that your success is directly correlated to their state of being. I cannot see how you can be successful as a leader if your people are miserable and feel undervalued. To be a great leader can be learned but it takes an enormous investment in self. The greatest leaders spend a lot of time doing inner work because what you carry inside shows up when you are a leader. The pressures of the job can bring about really ugly things and the same people you treasure and lead can turn on you and you have to be very mature in handling any eventuality.
What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organisations?
Women really were born to lead. We show this in the roles we play particularly within the family structures. We are wonderful at it. Sadly, we get to the boardroom and corporate roles and decide to be something else; something that we are not. We are nurturing and encouraging by our very nature. You must be comfortable within your own skin as a woman. Own your role in society and use the strengths innate in you to progress.
Women must understand that men are not their enemies. We are our own worst enemies.
I am not for one second suggesting that gender inequality does not exist, it does, badly so. We need to learn that you cannot win this war by opting out. You must go about it consciously and strategically. Build relationships with your male counterparts; respect them as you would your fellow species. Show compassion. Seek to support and build especially as a leader. You will soon have the following and the support you require to move up the ladder.
What advice can you offer women who are seeking to have their own business?
Have a very clear vision of the life you want to live and the kind of business you want to run. What is your claim to fame? What do people know you for? Why should they buy from you? What value do you bring? Every action you take from the moment you are convinced that you want to start your own business enables that dream. Your business idea must fit into your overall life vision. Plan it and execute. Go for it! It is truly the most liberating thing ever.
Build relationships and strong networks as a general rule because once in business they are your saving grace. Relationships are the business; no matter the product or service. Trust your gut. Not everyone will get your dream; that is why it is yours; stay true to it; but; flexible enough to course correct as and when required. Find someone you trust who has walked down the same road and share ideas with them; it does not have to be full time mentorship but someone you know you can always go to when you are stuck or just need to test an approach or idea.
What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
It is a fact of life that we were brought up in a patriarchal society that labels women as weak and too emotional to lead. Most of us grew up within cultures where a woman’s place was at home rearing children; if they worked; they had no voice; no power and no mandate. As a result; some women believe you cannot have it all. I have also seen that women tend to disqualify themselves from big opportunities because of fear of being judged to be too ambitious. These are all the societal and mental barriers that we have had to fight off and change. Gone are those days! We are raising a very different generation.
I believe that we can have it all. We do have it all. All of that boils down to your own outlook on life. What defines your all? The buckets may not all be full at the same time; decide which bucket should always be full. What is important to you? Make the sacrifice you need to without dimming your own light. I am a great leader; an awesome businesswoman; a fabulous wife and mother. I am also many other things. I am capable of it all and I do my best in each and every one of them. What you believe is what you will become.
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women to come?
I am raising the next generation and I am always in awe of their spirit. We have beaten so many odds as this generation and pushed so many boundaries to prove we are worthy of our place under the sun. We have given them so many tools and resources as well as the confidence to be whatever they want to be and to never let anyone define them. I am very proud of what I am passing on to the next generation. Through their everyday reality; I show them that they can have it all. They can be a mom and have successful careers. They can explore the world uninhibited.
We are raising a very enlightened bunch of women and men. They are far more questioning and curious about the way things are. They are outspoken and very smart. The challenge I see is that we have only just started to shift perceptions about women but we are nowhere near utopia. It will be up to them to continue to challenge the norms of society and re-write a lot of the scripts that seek to demean and minimise women and their role in society. I am very proud though that I have done my best thus far to empower them; not just my own children but the many young women I mentor.
I am also raising a very conscious young man who observes the dynamic at home between mom and dad and sees both of them holding their own and running successful businesses whilst being there for them; loving and nurturing. I believe the future is in good hands; however; we must make sure that they have footprints that they can proudly follow in; not just for them but for many more generations to come.
AlphaCode Awards R16 Million To Fintech Start-ups In One Of SA’s Richest Start-up Initiatives
This R2 million scale up accelerator offers mentorship, expert guidance and support services to help these more established businesses to scale and create jobs.
Last night, Rand Merchant Investment Holding (RMI), through AlphaCode, awarded entrepreneurial packages valued at R16 million to eight of South Africa’s most promising financial services start-ups. The entrepreneurial packages consist of R1 million in grant funding and R1 million in support, which includes mentorship, monthly expert-led sessions, exclusive office space in Sandton, marketing, legal and other business support services as well as access to the broader RMI network.
The AlphaCode Incubate initiative, in partnership with Merrill Lynch South Africa and Royal Bafokeng Holdings, identifies South African financial services entrepreneurs with extraordinary ideas and businesses that could impact the financial services industry. More than 200 start-ups applied to participate. Of these, sixteen made it to final pitch evening and eight recipients were selected.
The eight winning businesses are:
|Akiba Digital||A gamified mobile app making it easier and more rewarding to set, manage and meet savings goals.||Tebogo Mokwena and Kamogelo Kekana||https://bit.ly/2yOjYoX
|ISpani Group||Provides access for insurers into traditionally under insured communities through prepaid vouchers and USSD sold by a network of spaza shop vendors.||Prince Nwadeyi, Khathazile Moroe, Patrick Machekera and Louis Buys||https://bit.ly/2CrgbkE
|Jamii||De-risks tenant rent default through offering tenants incentive-based discounts on food and transport and bolt-on retrenchment cover.||Adrian Taylor, Marc Maasdorp and Bartek Dutkowski||https://bit.ly/2ytdc8F
|Nisa Finance||An invoice financing platform that enables financiers to issue invoice-backed loans to SMEs quickly and affordably by fully-automating the application and invoice verification through ERP system integration.||Thando Hlongwane, Tekane Ledimo and Sinqobile Mashalaba||https://bit.ly/2yptcIW
|Pago||A low cost mobile micro payments platform for the informal sector to enable an inclusive economy by digitising remittances through the use of blockchain technology.||Philip Mngadi and Noel Lynch||https://bit.ly/2S1QKvn
|Prospa||A mobile savings wallet for low-income earning South Africans that makes it easy to save small amounts infrequently using prepaid vouchers.||Dhanyal Davidson and Carl Ngwenya||https://bit.ly/2JbwbJf
|SELFsure||Enables millennials to significantly reduce car insurance premiums by self-insuring part of the risk via peer to peer lending.||Proud Chitumba, Amos Mugova and Tshepiso Shamane||https://bit.ly/2J6HVfV
|Yalu||A self-service credit life insurance platform which replaces a customer’s current policy with a more affordable, simpler and rewarding policy.||Nkazi Sokhulu, Tlalane Ntuli, Steve Goeieman and Life Mhlanga||https://bit.ly/2PH87QF
The programme has disbursed R13 million in funding to 15 black-owned financial services businesses since it began three years ago. “Some have experienced exponential growth and we have been amazed at the level of traction they have received locally and internationally. The intention behind AlphaCode’s Explore, Incubate and Accelerate programmes is for RMI to discover the next OUTsurance or Discovery; we want to identify, partner and grow the future of financial services in South Africa,” says Dominique Collett, head of AlphaCode and a RMI senior investments executive.
During the event, contestants had just three minutes to pitch their businesses, with a couple of minutes set aside for questions from a formidable panel of judges. These included Phuti Mahanyele, CEO of Sigma Capital; Raymond Ndlovu, investment executive, Remgro; Nakedi Ramaphakela, finance director, Royal Bafokeng Holdings; Anthony Knox, MD Investment Banking of Merrill Lynch South Africa and Dominique Collett.
Julie Benadie, regional executive of Operations and Corporate Affairs at Merrill Lynch explained: “We believe in supporting disruptive ideas so that creative fintech solutions will emerge to address the challenges that South Africa faces. We want South Africa to become a fintech centre of excellence with its already advanced financial services infrastructure.”
The AlphaCode Incubate programme deals with common challenges that financial services startups face. All participants are early stage businesses, under two years old and at least 51% owned by black South Africans.
“AlphaCode is also now also seeking additional fintech entrepreneurs for our Explore programme. This offers a 12-month data science and business skills programme for 20 aspirant South African fintech entrepreneurs in conjunction with The Explore Data Science Academy,” Collett added.
Candidates will go through an intensive six-month data science-training programme, where they will learn how to design a 10X business along with the core digital skills needed to build a fintech organisation. This will be followed by three-months of business skills training. Interested fintech entrepreneurs should apply at www.alphacode-explore10x.club by 30 October 2018.”
In addition, AlphaCode recently selected four more established fintech businesses for its Accelerate programme: Entersekt, Livestock Wealth, Click2Sure and Invoice Worx. This R2 million scale up accelerator offers mentorship, expert guidance and support services to help these more established businesses to scale and create jobs.
The Sky Is The Limit For South Africa’s Top Women Achievers
High-powered women achievers from across the private and public sectors, academia and diplomatic spheres gathered for a charged two-day conference in Johannesburg this week to share experiences about empowerment, achievement and the role that women are destined to play in a competitive global environment.
Several hundred women attended the 15th Annual Standard Bank Top Women Conference which, with the Top Women Awards, has become one of the premier events for women on the national calendar. The objective of the gathering at the Maslow Hotel on the 17th and 18th of October, was to showcase the achievements of South African women and reignite their passion as they have major roles to play in all arenas of endeavour, says Ethel Nyembe, head of Card Issuing at Standard Bank.
“The delegates to the Top Women Conference were inspired by speakers such as Yvonne Chaka Chaka, singer, songwriter and an entrepreneur in her own right; Phuti Mahanyele, executive chair of Sigma Capital, a black-owned investment group, and political and academic stalwart Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, now Chancellor of Nelson Mandela University and other women who are playing leading roles in many of the nation’s listed blue-chip corporations.”
“The overall message is that women are playing a central role in growing all facets of our economy and are helping to build a future from which other women can benefit and, in turn, inspire others. Women, regardless of whether they are entertainment icons, professionals engaged in helping shape the minds of future generations, businesswomen or scientists are part of building a new global reality.”
To inspire delegates about the breadth and depth of the future for women, the conference examined all facets of economic life from the impact that IT and scientific research is having on building businesses, through to the development of entrepreneurs and leadership skills. Insights were offered through the contributions of speakers and roundtable panel discussions in which leading women offered observations and advice gathered from their vast experience.
“Standard Bank is proud of the role it has played in enabling women achievers to reach their full potential within its ranks. The bank also recognises that women across society have a broad role to play in the future of South Africa. It is through support for events like the Top Women Awards and the Top Women Conference that this approach is made visible and tangible.”
“We expect this year’s conference deliberations to deliver insights and inspiration that will not only spur established women to new heights of achievement, but also stimulate young women starting new careers,” says Ms Nyembe.
The Ins And Outs Of A Good Exit Strategy
The thought of parting with a business you’ve grown from the ground up may be unsettling, but Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, says that it is better for both your business and yourself to plan for this as early as possible.
“The challenge that business owners often face in this respect is comparable to the difficulty that many new parents have with imagining their children grown up and leaving for university. Imagine, however, if parents did not plan ahead for the cost of their education – that would be detrimental to the future of their children. The same could be the case for your business.”
Mjadu says that a good exit strategy is about sustainability and being able to measure your business performance against the goals you have set for it. “It’s really about being able to say, ‘this is when the work is done and I can exit the business or take on a different role – this is what success looks like in terms of monetary return on investment and other business growth indicators’.
“The lack of an exit strategy could be telling of a fundamental lack of measurable business goals and this needs to be addressed,” she says.
From immediate liquidation to liquidation over time; family succession; selling to staff or external investors; the open market or another business; or the gruelling but profitable exercise of taking your company public – there are many different ways in which an entrepreneur can exit their business, but Mjadu says that whatever the process, a strong and solid strategy is essential.
She shares five key points of a good exit strategy:
1. It tells you when you are done
Mjadu says that a good exit strategy should reflect a core understanding of all the intricacies of your business and should be able to tell you when the lifecycle of your business (or of your involvement in the business) should come to an end. This is usually done by including a set of tangible measurables or objectives so that it is easy to ascertain when these have been achieved.
2. It sets out the right environment within which to exit
A good exit strategy considers the economic, social and political environment at the time of your exit. Mjadu says that this is important in order to plan for a secure financial future.
“Failure to think about this could result in short-changing yourself by exiting during a tough economic climate when the risk to buyers reduces the value of your business.”
She references the case of Victoria’s Secret when founder, Roy Raymond, sold the failing business for $1m unknowing that it would later grow into the multi-billion dollar empire it is now. “While Raymond’s exit was ultimately necessary for Victoria’s Secret’s growth, he sold it in 1982 during the global recession of the early eighties – one of the world’s biggest financial crises and this influenced the selling price at his exit”.
3. It compensates those who have contributed to the life of your business
It is important to consider the impact your exit could have on investors and staff, says Mjadu. “Closing shop for example, means that your staff no longer have employment at your business. Selling could mean the same.” She adds that it is important to consider ways in which your exit could also benefit these stakeholders – for example, selling to a bigger business could mean more career opportunities for your staff, as well as continued job security.
4. It compensates you
Mjadu says that entrepreneurs often struggle to recognise their own true worth, especially when this involves attaching a monetary value to what has been achieved. “The time of exiting a business is no place to short-change yourself. You need to get out the full worth of what you put in,” she says, explaining that this means ensuring that you are financially secure before and while you go into your next venture.
“Your needs for retirement and medical insurance, as well as the maintenance of your living standard, should be met at your exit.”
5. It sustains your entrepreneurial drive
Mjadu says that while you may be nearing the end of one journey, your exit should enable and encourage you to continue to be an entrepreneur – and to look forward to the next journey. “Your entrepreneurial skills and capacity do not end when you exit your business and whatever your strategy, it should egg you on to more entrepreneurial activity including becoming a mentor to aspiring entrepreneurs.”
Mjadu says that exiting your business should allow you a good retrospective look at what you have done over the years – and so planning the strategy early on in your business lifecycle will set you up in regards to what you hope to achieve. “Upon exit, you should be able to say that you have done what you set out to do, financially and socially, and you have some energy left to do more elsewhere.”
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