“The number of fempreneurs (women entrepreneurs) in South Africa is growing. Women’s Month is a wonderful opportunity to highlight the strides they have made towards achieving equality and independence as well as the many struggles and challenges that many women still face.” says Cindy Norcott, Marketing and Communications Chair for EO Durban
An entrepreneur herself as the founder of recruitment agency Pro Talent, Norcott has authored books and spoken widely about the challenges of growing a business in a country where women are frequently viewed as homemakers rather than business owners.
With the right support structures, women can have it all and be wonderful wives, mothers and CEO’s, she points out.
According to Mastercard’s Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE), which highlights the socioeconomic contributions of women entrepreneurs across the world, South Africa ranked 37th in the global Women Business Owner Benchmark in 2021.
According to MIWE, 21.9% of all local businesses were owned by women in 2021 versus 21.1% in 2020. The advancement of South African business women is driven by necessity but also hampered by less than ideal supportive entrepreneurial conditions, according to the survey.
Newly appointed president of the Durban Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), Denzil Steyn, said that EO hoped to build its membership of female entrepreneurs to reflect the growth in fempreneurs and would provide the support that was needed for them to continue to succeed.
“Business is an ecosystem of people and relationships. Creating an environment for good people to grow, perform and engage with other likeminded people is one of the key elements to success, “he says.
EO is a global, peer-to-peer network of more than 14 000 influential business owners with 199 chapters in 61 countries. It is open to entrepreneurs with businesses which turn over more than US$1 million a year.
Norcott believes that achieving a work life balance is one of the primary challenges faced by fempreneurs.
“I used to see a work life balance as a see-saw with work on one end and life on the other. My perception has changed. I see our lives as a wheel with loads of spokes on it. Sometimes we need to focus more on one area than on others. I think that we, as female entrepreneurs, are all experiencing a blending and meshing of work into life and life into work. This can be messy and exhausting. I think the trick is navigating the tension between our diverse roles whilst being kinder to ourselves,” she says.
Her advice to fellow women business owners is to set clear boundaries, take care of themselves and to spend time with like-minded people.
“As a member of EO, I have learned to work smarter and not harder, to be more comfortable putting myself and my family before others and to not over-book my diary to allow for a few slower days to recuperate after a busy patch,” she adds.
Tarryn Tait, CEO of Basics and Beyond, started her office furniture business in 2008 at the age of just 26.
She shared the following nugget of advice: “I believe in quality over quantity. Be present and don’t allow the phone to interrupt important moments. If time spent with family is not meaningful and intentional, you are probably better off spending one hour connecting deeply.”
Shahzadee Ballim, owner of Engen on the Point, was brought up within a family business that imported and wholesaled homeware and spent most of her days after school working at the warehouse. Whilst studying for her BComm, her father was taken ill and she had to step into his very big shoes.
“I’ve been in the working world for as long as I can remember. I continued with the importing, wholesaling business and, in 2017, I took over Engen uShaka along with Steers which falls under Famous Brands.
“I’m passionate about the empowerment of women and I would like to see more becoming entrepreneurs. Being a Mom and an entrepreneur is all about finding the perfect balance. Plan in advance, do what you can and then delegate the rest – and always remember you can do it,” she says.
EO KZN member, Saskia Hill is the founder of MCS Debt Recovery which specialises in debt recovery and the rehabilitation of debtors and counts leading banks, financial service providers, insurance companies and retailers as clients. She is a passionate fempreneur who is committed to helping her staff as well as improving the overall debt collection environment during this extremely challenging Covid recovery period.
In addition to founding a tech start-up company in the midst of the pandemic, she is also the recipient of the HCL & IAOP “Unstoppable Woman of 2022” award.
“Creating a work-life balance is constantly evolving as our family and work dynamics evolve. Grounding is essential, whether it is fitness regimes, meditation or scheduled time with family and friends, all of which is necessary fuel to move us forward during our challenges. Our circle of influence needs to be a safe place and a source of positive energy. Being vulnerable is the new real. There is no competition to create a perfect work-life balance. We use what works for us and embrace our differences,” she says.
Shilpa Mehta, managing director of leading electronics manufacturing services provider Production Logix and a past president of EO KZN, is also no stranger to mega achievements – including climbing Mount Kilimanjaro!
“Plan in advance and make yourself a priority. Your sleep and health are important. Fill your cup because, when it is full, it is much easier to be energetic and enthusiastic about a busy schedule. Outsource and delegate where you can,” she advises.