What does it take to build a non-profit foundation that aims to reduce the gender inequality gap in South Africa?
Successful entrepreneur and founder of The EssBee Foundation, Shenai Bridglall, shares the mindset she has fostered that has helped her build a business and non-profit foundation side be side, allowing her to fuel her entrepreneurial fire while also making a real and positive impact in her community.
Laying the right foundations
As with any successful venture, you need to blend skills, experience and passion.
Shenai Bridglall grew up and was schooled in Port Shepstone, Kwa-Zulu Natal. She has a Bachelor of Business Science honours degree, and did postgraduate studies in Italy. She then came back to South Africa and completed a Master of Business Science. Shenai was a Miss South Africa 2017 finalist and worked at Google in South Africa and Singapore before giving up her seven-figure salary to start her non-profit organisation and retail conglomerate respectively, The EssBee Foundation and SB Holdings.
Here’s how Shenai views success, and how you can implement these lessons in your own life, business and goals.
What mantra do you live by?
“You are always of value if you value you.” My parents and grandparents instilled values in me throughout my childhood, and this resulted in me always valuing myself as an adult.
By valuing myself, I know that my value does not decrease based on anyone’s inability to see my worth and this has helped me deal with rejection, failure and difficult experiences and challenges in daily life.
If you don’t value yourself, you are more likely to settle for less than you deserve.
If you could change one thing, what would it be and why?
Changing something in my life would mean removing a lesson that shaped the person that I am today, so I wouldn’t change anything.
Being human means that we all make mistakes and trying to make mistakes disappear defeats the purpose of learning from them. To improve and come closer to being the best version of yourself, live your honest, true self and accept that you will make mistakes – and that this is okay.
Staying true to yourself and embracing your mistakes can be challenging, but effectively suppressing your true self is even more challenging.
Do you have a daily ritual that positively impacts your success?
Each of my days is so different, so I don’t have a daily ritual that is set in stone per se. The only thing in common about each day is that I wake up between 4 am and 5am every morning. I’ve been doing this since I was a child, so it’s just so natural to me that I don’t even have to set a morning alarm.
Although it’s true that most of the world’s most successful people are early risers, waking up at an arbitrary time early in the morning won’t necessarily help you succeed. It’s what you do with that time that counts.
Waking up early works for me but it doesn’t work for everyone; every person needs to make a thoughtful decision to wake up at the time that’s most productive for them; this is all that matters and will likely lead to their success.
Have you looked up to role models to shape your thoughts and ideas?
I look to a different role model or expert for each aspect of my life, as I see learning from others and their successes and failures as a good way to improve and develop as an individual.
I seek business guidance specific to retail and luxury brand building from Maria Hatzistefanis’s ‘How to Be an Overnight Success’ novel and podcast, for example. I also find it helpful to closely monitor the business decisions made by the leading luxury conglomerates in the world.
For the EssBee Foundation however, I seek philanthropic guidance from novels like Reshma Saujani’s Brave Not Perfect, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and Option B, Michelle Obama’s Becoming and Arianna Huffington’s Thrive. When I feel demotivated, I watch videos by Gary Vaynerchuk and Jay Shetty; it really just depends on the situation.
In July, The EssBee Foundation launched our #GuideOurGirls initiative, which entails facilitating tertiary institution visits for our matric girls with the intention of guiding them to make an informed career decision.
The foundation has grown rapidly since inception and now operates nationally with over 50 members working to build a gender-equal South Africa.
Managing a large team of individuals around the country does get difficult at times, so knowing that there are other successful, independent and admirable experts that have experienced and overcome similar difficulties is reassuring.
Whilst it is important to look to role models and experts for advice, it is just as important to learn from yourself when you make a mistake or fail.
What do you wish you had known ten years ago that you know today that would have enabled you to build greater success faster?
I’m 25; if anything I should have probably slowed down. Most people ‘lose’ or don’t reach their goals because they want things to happen fast.
Success is not a race and it isn’t about who gets there faster.
Patience is key; be patient because good things usually take time, effort and hard work to achieve. You need to strive to be a lifetime in the making, not an ‘overnight success’.
How do you instil a success mindset in the girls at The EssBee Foundation?
I have been trying to instil a success mindset in the girls at The EssBee Foundation by recognising my own mindset and being mindful of my own thinking and of the messages I send with my words and actions.
Many of our girls were abuse victims and recovering from such a traumatic experience can be difficult, even with professional help. Despite their circumstances, I always remind them that it doesn’t matter where they came from; what matters is that they overcame.
What is your ultimate goal for The EssBee Foundation and the girls that the foundation supports?
The goal of The EssBee Foundation is to reduce the gender inequality gap in South Africa. Despite progression in recent years, South Africa still remains a patriarchal society where girls and women experience inequality. To fulfil our goal of reducing gender inequality, The EssBee Foundation has four programs in place.
1. Our #LetGirlsLearn initiative focuses on tutoring and mentoring our girls to assist them to excel at school and get placement at tertiary institutions upon matriculation.
2. Our #GuideOurGirls initiative, which launched in July 2019, focuses on facilitating tertiary institution visits, corporate visits and job shadowing for our matric girls to guide them with their career decision.
3. Our #KeepingGirlsAtSchool initiative will commence from January 2020 and focus on funding tertiary education for our girls and providing them with guidance and mentorship during their transformation from school to tertiary institution.
4. Finally, our #PowerWomenEmpower initiative will commence from late 2019 and focus on providing venture capital and business guidance to small and medium sized female founded enterprises and introduce our entrepreneurs to successful businesswomen and leaders via our annual #PowerWomenEmpower conference.
The EssBee Foundation firmly believes that the gender inequality gap in South Africa will be significantly reduced over time with the successful implementation of our four current initiatives and future add-ons.