South Africa’s Fearless Businesswomen
More and more South African women are making a splash as successful entrepreneurs. From business owners expanding their companies in the townships, to big-time company directors working in SA’s biggest cosmopolitan hubs, more and more of South Africa’s women are leaning into the world of business.
From humble beginnings to major names in business – here’s a look at ten inspirational female business entrepreneurs making waves across South Africa.
The power of creative vision: Nkhensani Nkosi, Stoned Cherrie
Nkhensani Nkosi first came into the public eye as an actress and TV presenter. Her design work came later in her career, when, in 2000, she founded the iconic fashion brand Stoned Cherrie.
Soon after its launch, Stoned Cherrie attracted considerable attention across South Africa for its use of Apartheid-era figures in its clothing designs. From there, this South African entrepreneur’s brand acclaim grew from strength to strength.
Now a mature and successful Johannesburg-based design label, Stoned Cherrie has become the go-to name in cool Afro-centric fashion that shifts perceptions of African design away from traditional beaded skirts and headdresses. The brand has also started to attract other ambitious fashion designers – all of whom have a unique voice and interesting point of view to add to the Stoned Cherrie brand.
The brand aims big – hoping to transform the way Africans feel about themselves and their history.
For all budding entrepreneurs, founder Nkosi’s advice is simple: first of all, dream big! From there, you can follow practical steps to achieve those big ambitions.
Bringing healthcare to the people: Boitumelo Ntsoane, Afrilink HealthCare
From a young age, Boitumelo Ntsoane’s mother encouraged her to follow her dreams.
Inspired, Ntsoane studied hard at school. Her efforts paid off when she received a scholarship to study toward a pharmacist’s degree at Rhodes University.
It was a major accomplishment. Yet, once Ntsoane started off in the world of work, she found herself disappointed. Her free spirit was stifled by the need to work toward someone else’s goals. She wanted greater flexibility, independence and the ability to work towards her own vision and future.
Leveraging her skillset as a pharmacist, Ntsoane founded a small medical centre, and called it Afrilink Healthcare.
After only two years, Ntsoane was in a position to reinvest all her profits back into her business startup. With the funds, this successful entrepreneur purchased a fully furnished mobile clinic.
Today, Afrilink Healthcare helps the Tshwane Department of Health to conduct school-based health campaigns, and has touched the lives of students in over 350 schools.
And Ntsoane has no intention of stopping yet, hoping to improve healthcare still more people across South Africa.
Advising other entrepreneurs: Polo Leteka Radebe, IDF Managers
Blessed with an entrepreneurial spirit from a young age, Polo Leteka Radebe started off her career in the corporate sector, and later took a position in government.
Yet her desire to be involved in the entrepreneurial world never left her. Having run a number of side businesses while in formal employment, Radebe realised that she could use this experience to help other South African entrepreneurs turn their business passions into reality.
This led Radebe to start Capital Partners, a small-and-medium enterprise advisory and fund management firm. The company later evolved into IDF Managers.
Radebe encourages all women and especially young girls to see themselves as worthy and belonging in the world of business. Rather than waiting for an invitation to participate, Radebe says it’s up to women to open the door for themselves – great advice for all would-be entrepreneurs.
The power of African inspiration: Michelle Okafor, Okafor African Designs
Michelle Okafor was working as a travel agent when she was first inspired by the bold, graphic fabrics she saw on a trip to Nigeria.
She returned home inspired, eager to create beautiful clothing using the colourful fabrics she had seen.
Today, Okafor sells her unique designs through boutique stores as well as online.
Okafor explains that you need perseverance if you hope to be an entrepreneur in South Africa. She also explains that having a clear business plan – and following it – are part of the keys to success for anyone new to the world of business.
The high-flying businesswoman: Sibongile Sambo, SRS Aviation
Sibongile Sambo spent many years searching for her true career passion. Holding jobs at Telkom, City Power and De Beers, she finally applied to be an airhostess. But when her application was turned down because she didn’t meet the height requirement, she took a major next step – and decided to start her own aviation company.
Today, Sambo promotes youth and women empowerment and is part of a team that focuses on establishing South African women in aviation. Her non-profit encourages women to enter the field of aviation, as well as offering bursaries and scholarships.
Sambo explains that she invests her time and energy in others now because once, others believed in her dreams, too.
The medical magnate: Dineo Lioma: Incitech, CapeBio Technologies and Deep Medical Therapeutic
Although this successful South African entrepreneur is not yet 30, Dineo Lioma has already acted as co-founder of three innovative biotech companies. A strong believer in creating meaningful solutions for African healthcare, Lioma is driven by a desire to benchmark products against the best in the market and tap into the commercial side of science.
Her first venture, Deep Medical Therapeutics, works with IBM on artificial intelligence systems designed to help doctors determine the best therapies for drug-resistant diseases such as TB.
Her second, CapeBio Technologies, manufactures laboratory reagent enzymes. These are critical for molecular biology research.
Her third venture, Incitech, focuses on developing devices for faster diagnosis of HIV.
Given her contributions to the world of business, Lioma has not only been chosen as one of Forbes Africa’s Top 20 Wealth Creators, but also made it to the Mail & Guardian’s list of influential young South Africans.
The innovative technologist: Nneile Nkholise, Founder & Director @ iMED Tech Group
Nneile Nkholise established her first company before she had even graduated from university. The iMED Tech Group was founded in 2015, while Nkholise was completing her degree in mechanical engineering. The Group’s aim is to provide innovative medical solutions designed to improve healthcare delivery in Africa.
The company specialises 3D printing, using the technology to develop custom medical products.
Driven by a strong desire to make a social impact, Nkhosile also believes in unlocking the opportunities that come about through a collaboration between engineering and medicine.
A recipient of the SAB Foundation Social Innovation Award, Nkhosile has also been named one of Africa’s top female innovators by the World Economic Forum, was one of the 100 entrepreneurs who attended the the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in 2016. She was also ranked 13 in Forbes Africa’s 30 Under 30 Technology List for 2018.
The power saver: Sarah Collins, Wonderbag
The idea for Wonderbag came to Collins during a bout of load shedding.
Today, the Wonderbag is the powerless, heat-retention cooker, helping consumers to not only overcome the obstacles of an unpredictable electricity supply, but to reduce their electricity costs overall.
Using clever insulation layers, Wonderbag allows food that has been brought to the boil to continue cooking for up to 12 hours, without using additional energy.
On advice to other entrepreneurs, Collins notes that borrowing should not be a startup’s number one funding choice. She also advises on partnerships – and how these can be a beneficial part of growth for young businesses.
Collins has been listed in Fortune Magazine’s Top 10 Most Powerful Women Entrepreneur and named as one of Oprah’s African Heroines. She is also the recipient of an Eskom Innovation Award and had her company featured in Time Magazine. Incredible achievements from this amazing South African female entrepreneur.
Ingenious infrastructure: Mayleen Kyster, Africa Steel Holdings
Necessity is the mother of invention, goes the saying. And Mayleen Kyster is proof. She founded Africa Steel Holdings during a difficult time in the local steel-making industry, and is now reaping the rewards.
Africa Steel Holdings trades in raw, manufactured and fabricated steel for a multitude of projects. These include energy projects, dams, bridges, buildings and roads.
Kyster’s company has also attracted considerable recognition. Named by the Steel and Engineering Federation of Southern Africa as the most transformed company in steel for an employer of fewer than 100 people, Kyster’s hard work is paying off.
The code queen: Arlene Mulder: WeThinkCode and Toybox
Arlene Mulder was already a successful businesswoman when she resigned from her job as an investment banker to start WeThinkCode, a nonprofit organization focused on developing top coding and tech talent in South Africa. She also co-founded Toybox, a collaborative, interdisciplinary platform designed to help people with great ideas bring them to life.
Mulder is a strong believer in problem solving and creating the solutions you want to see in the world yourself. She is a recipient of the Forbes Woman Africa Technology and Innovation Award.
The media mogul: Allegro Dinkwanyanem, Orgella Media
Allegro Dinkwanyane started her company at just 21, after obtaining a degree in journalism. Her plan from the get-go was to be self-sufficient: obtain her degree and then be self-employed thereafter. She has proudly stated that she has never submitted a CV.
She started out in her career as an entertainment blogger specialising in brand management. At the same time, she was also producing social media marketing and public relations campaigns.
Over time, her business grew and she now represents a number of high-profile celebrities and companies across South Africa.
As proof of her success, Dinkwanyane made the Forbes 30 under 30 list for 2017 – an amazing achievement for any entrepreneur.
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The expert advisor: Thuli Magubane, Mint Fresh Advisory Services
Early on in life, Thuli Magubane studied politics. While she had her eyes set on being a diplomat, life had other plans, and instead she soon found herself climbing the corporate ladder.
Things changed during the recession, however, and soon Magubane found herself accepting a voluntary retrenchment package and thinking about the next step forward.
With no job, she decided to create one for herself and launched Mint Fresh Advisory Services. To gather the skills she’d need, she studied a PDM at Wits Business School, an introduction to investment banking at Trimaster and the Executive Master in Positive Leadership & Strategy programme at IE Business School.
Magubane’s business has had some major successes to date, and names a number of large corporates, such as Standard Bank, Sasol, Nedbank, Tata, SAPS and The City of Johannesburg among its clients.
For any new entrepreneur, it can seem daunting to start a new business. From identifying a gap in the market, to registering your business, drawing up a business plan, finding funding grants and finally managing the day-to-day requirements of running your new company, there is a lot to handle.
Yet, as these dynamic women entrepreneurs show, it’s not only possible to overcome these challenges, it’s possible to succeed beyond your wildest dreams, follow your passion, and make a positive impact in your community, city, or even on the global stage.
As your business gets moving, it’s important to get advice from experts you trust, seek inspiration and guidance from fellow businesspeople, and to keep an eye on your finances.
With QuickBooks, managing your books is quick and easy. Better yet, you can gain detailed insights into how your business is growing and track revenue, profit, cash flow and more. It’s the all-in-one solution for any new South African entrepreneur.
Discover more free Small Business Resources at the Intuit QuickBooks Resource Centre to help grow your business in South Africa today.