South African women are bolder than their international counterparts: 

70% of SA women aspire to become entrepreneurs according to the Veuve Clicquot International Women Entrepreneurship Barometer

This year, for the first time, Maison Veuve Clicquot unveiled an international barometer that maps out the current state of female entrepreneurship, shedding light on common prejudices, mental and structural barriers to be overcome and how to get beyond them. The findings were revealed and discussed in the presence of over 100 of SA’s leading businesspeople at the Veuve Clicquot X Women experience, held on the 24th of October in Johannesburg. 

Today Maison Veuve Clicquot wishes to affirm its commitment and embolden successive generations of audacious leading women. “Veuve Clicquot takes pride in providing a platform to South Africa’s audacious businesspeople offering insight and the opportunity to both network and participate in vital discussion. Veuve Clicquot aims to support businesspeople as they forge their own destinies, so that they in turn can inspire generations of women to come. And Madame Clicquot would surely approve,” says Pascal Asin, Managing Director Moët Hennessy Africa and Middle East. 

This was a pioneering experience for bold, entrepreneurial South African businesspeople who reflect the audacious spirit of Madame Clicquot. We caught up with some of the speakers – and SA’s leading women entrepreneurs in very different fields – Amanda Dambuza, Kholisa Thomas and Lala Tuku to give us insight into their entrepreneurship journeys and share some key learnings. 

SA'S LEADING WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS SHARE SECRETS TO SUCCESS

Amanda Dambuza

Founder and CEO of Uyandiswa

Q: What is the one piece of advice that has served you well in your entrepreneurship journey?

A: The sole purpose of your business must be to generate cash…then you can fulfil all your purpose’s desires.  Founded in 2013, Uyandiswa is a Level 1 B-BBEE and 100% Black Woman Owned (BWO), value-adding company. Based in Johannesburg, the company has been setting up project management offices and executing projects for large blue-chip organisations since inception across Africa.

Q: You are part business speaker, part motivational speaker. How does this reflect your management style? 

A: I am a very inclusive leader, more inspirational, servant-leader than authoritative. I believe the people I work with must be well-rounded human beings. I really do my best to inspire them to reach for whatever dream they wish for, to know that there are no limits to their potential. So much so in fact that I celebrate when people leave my company for bigger and better opportunities because it means I have been able to give them a platform that can set up their next. I encourage, support and inspire them to be their best, to just go for it. It does not mean I am a walk-over. I am tough on performance just not the person.

Q: In an interview with Bizcommunity, you stated “Once you decide you are made for business, then plan and execute. Stop waiting for people to validate your dreams. Just go for it.” What are the essential steps to creating a business as a first -time founder?

A: Many technical things like putting together a credible budget or a business plan can be researched and learned but here are some non-negotiables: Firstly, understand that an idea is not a business. You must be willing to invest your own money into seeing it come to fruition, record some success before asking for others to invest their money into it. If you keep thinking and working on Plan B then you may as well stay where you are. Undying self-belief and the absolute resolution that your business is the only plan and that you are the only plan should drive you and it really puts you in a different league. Do not be afraid of failure. It is your attitude towards it that determines its long-term effects. 

SA'S LEADING WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS SHARE SECRETS TO SUCCESS

Kholisa Thomas

Founder of www.artfull.co and Kholisa Thomas Art Advisory 

Q: You recently launched artfull; please tell us more about the platform?

A: It’s been a dream of mine to create a platform to bridge the gap between artists, art lovers and new art buyers. Living in Joburg, I noticed that many of my friends were living with empty walls in their homes, despite Joburg being home to many amazing artists. At the same time, I recognised that many of these artists were struggling to find a wider audience for their work. I saw a gap in the market to connect artists with potential buyers who wanted to start an art collection but didn’t know where to begin. And thus, artfull is born. artfull is a digital platform based in Joburg helping you discover and collect original work and limited editions prints by today’s best emerging and established artists. We believe that collecting art is not just a purchase but also an experience so we also have in-house art advisors to help collectors who are not comfortable buying online find the perfect artwork for their homes or office. By buying through artfull online or through one of our art advisors, you are investing in the careers of artists, supporting the future of the arts industry in South Africa and acquiring something of beauty made by human hands into your home. It’s so rewarding for me to watch an artist flourish and have a full-time studio practice because of what we do at artfull and our advisory practice. 

Q: Moving from art advisory to an online art platform is a quite a shift! Has it been a sharp learning curve? What advice would you give people giving their company a digital aspect?

A: It has been an incredibly steep learning curve but looking back I wouldn’t have done it differently. I love the fact that because I started from scratch I have had to learn every aspect of setting up, building and growing an online presence, from website development, content creation, online marketing and building a social media presence. 

The first advice is to know your customer and understand what problem you are trying to solve in their lives. Through working one on one with clients, sourcing art for their homes and office, I quickly understood what value I was providing in their life: access to expert information about starting a collection, access to quality art and lastly, making the journey from buying the artwork to having in framed and installed in their homes as easy and seamless as possible. So know your market, understand your client and offer something that is a solution to a problem. The second piece of advice is have an audience ready before you launch online. In my case my work as an art advisor and through the art events I hosted created a loyal following of clients and new art buyers who were hungry for the information I shared loved the community and connection that came with connecting them to the art world, a world they felt excluded from. And lastly, find ways for your clients to experience your product offline. At artfull you can make an appointment to see the artwork at my studio space and we will host regular pop-up exhibitions in interesting spaces and have events around the exhibition deepening our clients’ knowledge of the artists and their work.

SA'S LEADING WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS SHARE SECRETS TO SUCCESS

Lala Tuku

Founder and Director of Corporate IconsMedia and 

Co-Chair of Africa Rising International Film Festival 

Q: Your hashtag #AbreakwithLala has opened up conversations that many young women would never have the opportunity to have. What is a common question women ask and what is your answer?

A: Most young women I come across are interested in my journey. Questions vary, however, there is a common theme and questions – “How did you make it? How did you get ahead? There is a sense of desperation and fear as they are faced with the harsh realities of the industry with regards to access. My interpretation of their questions is “how do I get a seat at the table? How do I gain access to the rooms where decisions are made and ensure my voice is heard? How do I get the opportunity and therefore the break?” Experience has taught me to be well prepared, confident, and persistent, to equip myself with knowledge and the necessary skillset, know my worth and be resilient in all my efforts. You have to believe in what you are contributing to the table, so when you get there you don’t make the mistake of selling yourself short. I have learned the power and importance of harnessing good relationships and creating a good network around myself. Continued hunger for knowledge is also very important. Lastly, as much as possible, shut out the voice of fear and go for it! If there are no seats, you best be bold enough to bring your own chair.

Q: When you started to work, you wanted to be a director, and heard a lot of no’s. You say that “the reason I was given was that there are no black directors, let alone female.” Have you seen that change over the last few years?            

A: We are seeing a change but it is very slow. Television has definitely made more progress than the film industry, especially when it comes to films that make it to cinema. We need to be more intentional in our efforts to see more women in key technical roles – from directors, cinematographers, editors and writers.

Q: You are outspoken about the need for women to enter into media roles outside of acting. As an example, the need for women writers to write truthful female roles. Are there any writers or examples of this that you see pushing this forward? 

A: As long as there is a handful of women head writers, women will remain misrepresented. Transformation needs to start at the conception stage where three dimensional female characters are written. In the past 5 – 8 years we are starting to see a shift and a change in the story world and in government programmes that are geared to fast track the development of women in this area. The Female Filmmaker Project is a programme developed by the NFVF to increase opportunities for emerging writers and directors. Bongi Ndaba and Dudu Mabaso – we are seeing young female head writers at the helm of incredible productions such as Rea Moeti with an upcoming Showmax show, Sunni Faba on the Herd; Thuli Zuma on the period piece Ifalakhe; Mbalizethu Zulu on Impilo: The Scam; Lwazi Mvusi on her feature Farewell Ella Bella. 

The fearlessness shown by Madame Clicquot when she took over Maison Veuve Clicquot in 1805, at a time when women had no place in the world of business, endures in the heritage of the Maison. To pay homage to her legacy, the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award was created in 1972 and the New Generation Award in 2014. Both awards highlight the exceptional accomplishments of woman entrepreneurs. Since the creation of these awards, Maison Veuve Clicquot has recognised more than 350 women in 27 countries worldwide.

On October 24, Maison Veuve Clicquot pursued a conversation with eminent Role Makers begun in 1805, inviting women to dare, to be bold, to take the plunge, and thereby contribute to effecting real change in the real world.

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