South Africa’s women in business need to be more “up front” so as to reach their desired business goals.
This is the plea by Norma Witten, chairperson of the South African Women Entrepreneurs’ Network (Sawen), who says that women entrepreneurs must be radical “and bold in our attempt to see our business ventures take off”.
She was addressing a gathering of about 100 ambitious female business minds, some of whom are key players in their respective industries, at the organisation’s year-end networking programme.
Held at the Liberty Life head office in Century City, entrepreneurs mingled and shared the pros and cons of being in business.
Sharing their stories of success, established business owners encouraged their aspiring counterparts to start “thinking out of the box and take big steps”.
Witten, a Sawen member of 12 years, says women in the business sector were hard workers but they yet needed to be more active.
She cited the need to pay attention to opportunities created by government through support of successful programmes such as those offered by Sawen.
She said: “Don’t stand back from corporates; they do respect a woman with ambition.
We must not stand back from anything in life. We are given opportunities. I stayed with Sawen because I saw opportunities … we also get these from the government so let’s use them.”
The Sawen programme has existed for more than a decade and has so far managed to uplift thousands of women entrepreneurs operating in the local small business sector and continue to vie for gender equality.
Since its rollout by the Department of Trade and Industry, it has managed to expose potential and existing entrepreneurs to international women empowerment programmes.
At November’s Sawen event , a section of 20 growing enterprises shared their success stories for 2013. Mathokoza Nhlapo, founder of the prestigious Sithabe African Craft, says ever since she joined Sawen she has seen her business expertise sharpen.
An academic librarian by profession, she comes from humble beginnings, having worked from home where she started creating unique African artifacts; she is now a highly recognised exporter and exhibitor of African goods.
Her exposure to some of the organisation’s rollout of seminars, workshops, training and organised international educational and empowerment trade missions turned a “new leaf in my life”.
“I now do showcasing annually; I do gifts for national presidents. Through Sawen I got to exhibit in Frankfurt,” says Nhlapo.
Jenny Classen was retrenched from her job in 2008, she decided to look past her troubles and enter the business scene.
She says the reason she joined Sawen was to gain some perspective of the field.
“I decided to focus my attention to developing franchises and my talent for motivational speaking opened more doors for me. Today I stand as a procurer of industrial material which I then sell on to the State,” says Classen.
She runs Ngaphaya Y2K10 Trading that sells goods such as specialised diving gear and railway equipment.
The business was also awarded a certificate for qualifying as one of South Africa’s top gender empowerment businesses at the Top Women Awards 2013.
Julia Modise, Sawen Western Cape secretary, says women business owners, more so those operating in townships, still need to “gain organizational thought.
“It’s not a matter of us against men, because there is none of that. It’s about a situation where we must push ourselves with passion and ambition to reach our goals. But more is needed from us in organizing ourselves for big things,” says Modise.
As a remedy to deflect disorganization, a presentation into accurate business planning and management was done by Donovan Goliath of Shanduka Black Umbrellas.
Another meeting for women entrepreneurs was to be held on 19 February 2014, said Modise.