Just 70 years ago,black women in SAwere largely regarded as legal minors with no power to open bank accounts, lease property or conduct legal transactions without their husbands’ permission. Some remnants of this legacy remain, but, increasingly, traditional roles are being subverted and women are building businesses. However, women entrepreneurs still remain part of a small minority of thriving business success stories.
The Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs found women inearly-stage entrepreneurshipdecreased by 15.7% in 2018 and only 18.8% of all business owners in SA are women. Suffice to say there’s more to be done, and a lot of it starts with support. When Lebogang Ndlovu, owner of Amare Beauty Hub, announced her intention to start a small business shortly after matric, her parents weren’t happy. She forged ahead despite the lack of support and tenaciously founded three different ventures, which all, unfortunately, failed. She then decided to attend consumer financial training offered by Santam through Mzansi Financial Education. From this training, she learned to ‘fail forwards’ and started her current company – a highly successful Soweto-based spa. She credits the support and mentorship she received as imperative to this success.
That says Tersia Mdunge, Santam’s Corporate Social Investment Manager, is what Santam’s Consumer Financial Education (CFE) is all about, “To grow entrepreneurship, South Africa needs to provide enabling conditions, opportunity and support. As the cornerstone of our economy, it’s pivotal we do so. At Santam, our Consumer Financial Education and Mentorship programme helps young, black entrepreneurs from previously disadvantaged backgrounds to turn their ideas into tangible businesses. We’ve assisted 1 595 individuals so far, and we’re absolutely committed to continuing to do so.”
Although Africa has the highest growth rate of female-run businesses globally, according to the World Bank,South Africalags behind countries like Ghana.
Here, three women entrepreneurs from Johannesburg share their entrepreneurial journeys and the difference mentorship made:
1. Lebogang Ndlovu, owner: Amare Beauty Hub
Although young, Ndlovu knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur after matric. It was tough convincing her parents to get on-board. “I come from a typical black family background where the norm is to be employed and not create employment.”
After getting her parents on-side, she used the allowance they provided to start a home executive concierge service. That, unfortunately, failed, and she tried two other ventures, which also didn’t last. It was then that she decided to attend Santam’s training. She did thorough research before jumping into yet another business. She realised that, “It does not matter how many times you fail, learn from your mistakes and move along.”
Ndlovu finally found her passion in beauty. She currently runs Amare Beauty Hub in Soweto; a fully-fledged beauty and health spa that focuses on “beauty on a budget”. With her business partner, she’s already considering expanding the business into micro-franchises to empower other women who are interesting in the beauty industry.
2. Nthabeleng Nhlapho, owner: Afro Kids Salon
Before 2016, running her own business was just a dream for Nhlapho, even though she always knew that she was an entrepreneur at heart, because of her family background.
“Getting into business has always been an idea I have toyed with, and after many years of procrastination, I finally decided to take that leap of faith. My dad’s side of the family is quite entrepreneurial as a number of my brothers have started and are sustaining their own businesses. So, in a sense, I think I was born to be an entrepreneur.”
After doing research, Nhlapho saw a gap in the market for an ethnic hair salon for kids. Having a daughter with ethnic hair herself, Nhlapho says, “It became apparent that many mothers like me are uncomfortable with having to take their young daughters to adult hair salons where the environment is not conducive for little budding minds, and stylists do not have the patience with children.”
Nhlapho’s Afro Kids salon is based in Sandton. She opened her door in September 2016 soon after she attended Santam’s training sessions. She gives credit to the mentorship she received and to support from friends and family for her success.
3. Phumzile Nala, owner: Pumzi’s Pretty Petals
Phumzile Nala’s grandmother inspired her love for flowers. “My grandmother loved flowers and used to do flower arrangements at friends’ and family events, which is where I was introduced to flower arrangements.”
Nala attended the Santam CFE workshops in Vilakazi Street in April this year. Her mentor, Martine Solomon, says, “Phumzile started the training with the hope that she would go into public speaking and training and development, however, that changed when she realised her passion for flowers. Phumzile was very helpful during her time in the programme, assisted with the roll-out of the CFE programme as well as CFE training and development.”
Now, Nala is a proud owner of a beautiful flower shop in Roodepoort called Pumzi’s Pretty Petals. In just six months, the business is showing steady growth. Nala’s other mentor, businessman Donnie Koetzee, played an instrumental role in this growth, helping Nala buy stock and get through start-up hurdles. Nala says, “At the beginning, I went through a lot of teething problems and had to take credit in order to keep the shop open.”
Even though Nala cannot compete with big retailers in terms of pricing, she gives her clients a far more personalised and meaningful experience. “We take time to teach our clients about our different offerings, and that is something they will not find in bigger stores.”
Nala found her unique value proposition, which is something that all entrepreneurs need to identify in order to compete. She also gives credit to social media as she makes use of it to advertise her flowers. Her dream is to open four stores in the four major cities of South Africa.
This programme is a direct response from the Department of Treasury for financial services companies like Santam to educate their clients and prospective clients on financial knowledge.
“We went above and beyond what is required of us and turned this into a successful initiative that empowers many to fulfil their dreams. Our programme has been dedicated to empowering our people to becoming financial savvy consumers and entrepreneurs. We have also made it our mandate to focus on risk management and understanding business insurance. Many small businesses do not consider the risks that come with running a business and how they would bounce back if they would be faced by a law-suite for instance;” concluded Mdunge.
For those who would like attend Santam’s Consumer Financial Education, please look out for an invitation on Santam’s website, the requirements are that as a consumer you need earn less than R250 000 and as a business owner, your business need to have a threshold less than R10 million.