‘Women of Worth’ reaching for the stars


By Thandisizwe Mgudlwa

While some women who occupy senior leadership positions in government and in the corporate world including in other sectors have failed to uplift other women – there’s still a lot of hope though.

Even here in South Africa there are an increasing number of ‘Women of Worth’ who have great talent and vision.

They are making things happen not only for themselves and other women but for society at large.

So it was with great pleasure this week to learn about these role models on our shores.

A report showed that women are increasingly holding senior positions in their professions or running their own business.

According to the 2010 Women-Owned Businesses in the 21st Century report the number of women-owned businesses in the United States grew by 44% between 1997 and 2007, twice as fast as male-owned firms.

Also highlighting female involvement in businesses is the 2010 South Africa GEM report, which noted the gender difference in the established business rate in SA is 53% male and 47% female.

And according to Nazeem Martin, Managing Director of Cape Town-based Business Partners Limited, there has recently been a noticeable shift in the number of investments approved and disbursed to female-owned small businesses.

“Over the past five years, Business Partners Limited has experienced a steady increase in the number of female clients, and this past financial year 43.3% of the number of investment disbursements were to female-owned businesses, and 36.2% in value.

“These increases are encouraging in that it shows more women are venturing into small and medium enterprises, as well as expanding their businesses as they grow. This continued female involvement in the Small Medium Enterprise (SME) sector is a key contributor to economic growth, as well as job creation in South Africa.”

In light of Women’s month, which is August, the focus was on two success stories of female small business owners who have started and grown their own business.

Margaret-Ann Alberts of East London started her company, Sew Kool, with a business partner in 2005.

Originally an interior decorating company, the business soon invested in two embroidery machines due to the constant requests from customers for special designs in embroidery work.

A short seven years later, Alberts is the sole owner of Sew Kool and has built the brand into a household name in East London.

Due to the success of the company, she currently employs 10 full time employees.

“I had always seen myself as a follower until one day I decided to take a chance on myself and my passion, interior decorating. I started small, working from a garage, with only two domestic machines and today, we have our own premises and 32 industrial machines,” says Alberts.

Alberts attributes her company’s success to identifying her growth possibilities through good service and quality.

“My biggest challenge as a business owner is to keep my customers satisfied and happy on a monthly basis, as without customer satisfaction, my business could not grow.

Over the years we have delivered on our customers’ expectations and as a result, have been able to grow five times in size.”

Delia Cupido of the Western Cape is a serial entrepreneur, with various successful businesses to her name.

Coming from a strong financial background, Cupido first opened her own estate agency, Delia Properties, in 2005.

In 2006, together with her husband, Colin, she bought Chameleon Pre-school and Educare Centre in Sybrand Park, which is now home to 110 full-time children between the ages of three months and 7 years.

In 2009, she purchased another school in Kenwyn, Busy Bumble Bee, and in 2011, she purchased a property for the ABC Educare in Kenwyn, which was later renamed Chameleon Kenwyn.

In June this year she purchased another school, Toddler College.

Cupido says that she has always been business orientated and an entrepreneur by heart, even when she worked as an accountant.

“My first love has however always been property, and after selling a dilapidated property I’d bought a few years previously for a substantial profit in 2006, I had the capital to start a new business venture.

“I then came across the opportunity to purchase the Chameleon Pre-school and Educare Centre, and as my daughter-in-law was qualified in this area and could assist with the school, I invested in the school and property.”

Cupido now owns all three of the schools and their properties and employs 40 staff members.

“I believe there are many opportunities around us and that you must persevere for what you love doing. It is important to go after what you believe in and to not hesitate because you are scared of failure or rejection,” says Cupido.

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