the deliveries. In addition, I was doing the telesales, invoices and all other administration single-handedly in what was often a 16- to 18-hour day,” she says. Fifteen years later, Judy has a fleet of delivery vehicles, nearly 50 employees and a R26-million turnover. With the growth of her business over the years, she has attended various courses to develop her management skills, which she says have taught her how to delegate. And, today, the business has some excellent systems in place.
“Winning the Most Influential Women Award last year changed my perception of myself as being the ‘Bakkie Lady’ to that of CEO of a successful business with a very popular brand that is increasingly sought after by established businesses,” admits Judy, who was thrilled to hear her name called out as the winner at the glittering awards function. “The whole judging process was enjoyable, if not a little nerve-racking, but I liked the way we were interviewed. I thought the whole process was very fair,” she adds.
Judy, whose business has made steady progress since the awards, reveals that Tsitsikamma Crystal Spring Water has just launched two delicious new flavours – “apple and pineapple – which are taking the country by storm. “Being in business for 10 years is considered being an instant success. You will only have one or two opportunities coming your way during your lifetime, so don’t throw in the towel at the first sign of adversity. If your business is young, you have to keep on working at it. And good luck to all the special women who have been nominated for the 2012 Most Influential Women Awards,” are her parting words to other female entrepreneurs.
Sustainable Revenue and Success
Nomahlubi Simamane, founder and CEO of Zanusi Brand Solutions, a strategic brand-consulting firm, was a finalist in the SME category of last year’s Most Influential Women Awards. “For me, the judging process for the Most Influential Women Awards helped me to reassess whether we are doing the right things, and whether we are doing them well,” she explains. “I was quite comfortable with highlighting our successes and giving good examples of our achievements. Obviously, the challenge since then has been to build on these successes, but we have had a very good year since,” says Nomahlubi.
Being in the service industry, Zanusi Brand Solutions is largely project-driven. “We constantly have to be on the lookout for new business and to keep feeding our project pipeline, because, at the end of the day, we have 16 people who expect a salary every month and a bonus at year-end. If there is one bit of advice I can offer other young businesswomen, then it is never to get complacent and rest on your laurels once you’ve won some business and started to make money. Your business has to be sustainable, and you need to save money for those rainy days when there will be a late payment or a dip in the economy. Make money, but look after it and make it sustainable,” Nomahlubi cautions. Her company has recently landed several high-profile contracts, while securing repeat business from existing clients, and so Nomahlubi believes that their work really speaks for itself. “What is particularly encouraging for me is that I still have the same team members now as I did three years ago, which means that they are seeing the value of what we do and are finding fulfilment in it, as well as realising the contribution they make to our clients and their own growth,” she maintains.
Nomahlubi is also passionate about empowering others, and so more than half of the company’s outsourced services are provided by previously disadvantaged people. Each year, the company also mentors a graduate intern. This seasoned businesswoman has won several awards. In 2009, she was the winner of the Top Businesswoman of the Year Award in the National Business Awards run by Top Companies, and was named the Businesswoman of the Year at the 2009 Black Business Awards run by BBQ. “Awards are an affirmation that you are on to a winning recipe, but they also raise the bar, so you end up setting expectations for yourself that are even higher, as does everyone else,” she remarks with a smile. Her second piece of advice for other businesswomen is that, once your company has become successful, you need to ‘stick to your knitting’. “Get your plans in place, don’t spend money willy-nilly, don’t spread yourself too thin by trying to do too many things, and just stick it out,” are her parting words of wisdom.
Fashioning Her Future
Charlene Lewison was another notable finalist in the 2011 Most Influential Women Awards, having transformed her father’s golf-apparel brand, Birdi, into a fashion phenomenon competing with established brands on golf courses not only in South Africa, but also around the world. “For me, being a finalist for these awards confirmed my worth, my purpose, and the time and effort I had put into this business in endeavouring to contribute to the building of our economy,” says Charlene. The judging process did, however, prompt her to re-evaluate her priorities, which is vital for everyone, especially when they are involved in a number of business and social projects, as she is. Shortly after the awards in mid-2011, Birdi was sold to another apparel company, Wizard Clothing. “The success of Birdi has, undoubtedly, resulted in the development of my personal brand,” maintains Charlene. She has since been asked to present to the Global Perspectives 2012 Annual Conference, an event which celebrates innovation. She has also been approached to sit on the board of the Democratic Alliance’s Women’s Network, which aims to address issues that affect South African women today, such as rape, domestic violence, child support and access to antiretroviral drugs, to name but a few.
“These and several other projects have come my way following the success I had as a director of Birdi, and this success was acknowledged by several awards over the years, but I believe that that is why we work and why we strive for success in the first place,” muses Charlene. Developing the ability to trust and believe in yourself, and to care for yourself, are crucial in finding professional and personal success, she maintains. “When you have a busy work and home life, it is very easy to lose that sense of self. I have personally experienced that loss, and so have learnt to be able to work hard, and then direct my focus to something else, either my family life or a personal hobby, without dwelling on work issues. I can’t stress enough how important it is to eat well and nourish your body, while making the time to exercise. I credit good nutrition and regular exercise with keeping me strong, even in those times when I am under severe pressure and working long hours.
Many women don’t take sufficient care of themselves, and, sometimes, as an employer, we should make the time to impart this knowledge to our employees, and guide them in their nutritional choices, especially when they are at work. I know I did, and with good effect,” Charlene maintains. “Taking good care of yourself and believing that you can achieve and succeed will go a long way to helping you be the best you can be,” she concludes.
Every year, CEO Communications recognises South Africa’s most influential women in the various sectors of business and government by way of panel-judged awards. A year on, we speak to the winners and finalists in the small- to medium-sized enterprise (SME) category of the 2011 awards to see just how far they’ve come.
Judy Woodgate, the founder of Tsitsikamma Crystal Spring Water, was the worthy winner of last year’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government Award in the SME category. Motivated by having to fund the education of her son, who suffers from macular degeneration, Judy began bottling spring water from the Tsitsikamma Mountains.
“My business was initially a one-woman show. I had to fill bottles, shrink-wrap them manually by cutting plastic for each case with a pair of scissors and shrinking it with a hand-held heat gun, then still load the bakkie myself and do
Big Ideas from SME Business Women
by Laura Franz-Kamissoko