Women in entrepreneurship

Women in entrepreneurship

Written on 10/10/2019
Liziwe Ndalana

I think being in the entrepreneurship space at the present moment is such a great thing. Government, with its targeted Department of Small Business, led by a woman Ms Khumbudzo Phophi Silence Ntshavheni in this current administration and other entrepreneurship driven programmes, show its commitment to supporting and growing entrepreneurship space at large. The women entrepreneur-driven programmes both by government agencies, like Seda (Small Enterprise Business Development Agency) and private organisations reinforce the notion that South Africa, as a country is committed to supporting women entrepreneurs. There’s also first preference for women-owned enterprises or joint ventures with women with a big shareholding power, which makes being in this space more exciting than ever before.

In my personal experience, being in the entrepreneurship has been the best thing that’s ever happened to me. First, it is the ability to fully own my time and being in charge of my destiny, and income. The biggest challenge, however, is dealing with my clientele, which is mostly male. I run a laundry business in Nyanga community and I’m running it from home, which means I’m sharing my living space with the business. The concept of laundry is not new in the township market, it’s been there forever. The difference though is that this type of business has always been done by an older woman, who probably needed to do something instead of being idle. In my case, I’m young and edgy and this has been my challenge. First, my clientele often gets a shock when they meet for the first time, both men and women, with men taking advantage to make unwanted advances. It’s even more challenging with the market I’m servicing because I use WhatsApp to communicate with my customers. The women on the other hand, especially the older ones often don’t take me seriously. The other challenge I’ve had so far is struggling to find a suitable employee to help me in the business. It’s either I get an old lady who often has issues when I exercise my authority or I get a youngster who treats me as her peer until I exercise my authority, then problems start.

The other challenge is trying collaborations with people and I often find that men want to have a majority shareholding or they appear to know it all even though they’re not running any business. I find the latter amusing. This also happens when I seek advice from experienced entrepreneurs, whom I see as mentors. They don’t ask questions, but they freely dish out advice. They rarely ask about my vision for the business. This is problematic if you feel stuck and needing a way to get yourself unstuck in order to move the business to the next level. I also find it disrespectful that a person would just waltz into your business and tell you what to do, especially those who seek partnership or collaboration. On a bigger scale though, I enjoy meeting and learning from other women entrepreneurs, in particular, those who pave the way for us. There are many examples of these women in South Africa, both young and old. I have a few of my favourites. Khanyi Dhlomo, founder of the now-defunct Ndalo Media is one that comes to mind immediately. Dhlomo truly demonstrated what entrepreneurship means, which is stepping into the unknown when she launched Ndalo Media and subsequently Destiny Magazine, in 2008. Being a woman and black and launching her own media house and a publication was a brave thing to do. Even after the closing down of Ndalo Media, she remains my hero. She truly broke the mould. There are also a number of millennials who are making great strides in the entrepreneurship space; two stand out for me: Allegro Dinkwanyane, and Sibu Mabhena. Dinkwanyane is the founder of Orgella Media, a company which represents celebrities in the entertainment industry and they also do work for corporate clients. Dikwanyane is a trailblazer of note who was listed on the Africa Forbes Under 30 recently. Mabhena is the founder of Duma Collective, a creative agency. She works behind scenes for mega-events for some of South Africa’s big hip hop stars. One that’s worth noting is hip hop star, Cassper Nyovest’s Fill Up the Dome mega event, one of the biggest concerts in South Africa.

These women make entrepreneurship look effortless and if you’re starting out on this journey like me, you know that it’s not easy, but reading about these women keep the hope alive and the vision burning in your chest even in the midst of challenges

Liziwe Ndalana is an experienced content writer, who started out with personal finance with a special focus on, covering topics including banking, insurance, debt management, savings and investing.
She is passionate about entrepreneurship support and development in the South African context, having written in the space for quite some time.
She is a big fan of financial literacy and has facilitated workshops in low to middle-income households, to help people better understand their attitudes and behaviours towards their finances. Empowering others with knowledge is one of her greatest passions. A literacy enthusiast and also an advocate for the empowerment of the girl child.