Women entrepreneurs in South Africa are not new. Even so, the number of women in entrepreneurship has been on a steady rise in recent years. More women world over defy the status quo and dive into the conventional male-dominated fields. Business and entrepreneurship are one of these fields.
Often, the term businessperson is used synonymously with the title entrepreneur. While there is a subtle difference between the two, both professionals embody many attributes of the other. For instance, to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to have strong business acumen. In the same vein, to be a renowned businessperson, you have to possess good entrepreneurial skills. This is exactly what successful South African women in entrepreneurship do.
Until recently, South African women were not as prominent in entrepreneurship circles as they are today. This is because, in the past, most career women chose to work in conventional women dominated careers. However, today, South African women have branched out from the traditional career path to becoming successful entrepreneurs. Some of these women own small and medium enterprises, while others lead successful corporations in South Africa. Who are these women? What is their entrepreneurial journey? Here is a list of 7 upcoming women entrepreneurs to watch in South Africa today.
Ntombezinhle Jiyane (DJ Zinhle)
Born on 30th December 1982 in Dannhauser, Kwazulu-Natal, Ntombezinhle Jiyane is a South African woman who wears many hats. She is an entertainer, an entrepreneur, a mother and an author. As an entertainer, Jiyane is a DJ, a music producer, and a musician. As one of women entrepreneurs in SA, she has interest in several businesses. She is also a champion of women empowerment. Dj Zinhle uses her influence and resources to empower South African women across the country.
Jiyane as a DJ (DJ Zinhle)
Growing up, the multi-talented South African entertainer wasn’t keen on making a career out of Deejaying. Instead, she had her heart fixed on becoming a television presenter. When she came of age to work, Jiyane joined SAB as a brand manager. Her brother then challenged her to pursue a career in deejaying. So she picked her deejaying tools and hit the ground running. By 2004, she had built a name for herself and started deejaying at different events and clubs. Five years later, DJ Zinhle continued to carve a niche for herself and other women in the deejaying scene. In 2009, Jiyane started a deejaying school dubbed FUSE academy to help beginner female DJs learn the craft. However, the school stopped operating in 2019.
While she closed down her school, the multi-talented female entertainer continued to impress the world with her great disk jockey skills. To appreciate her efforts, she got invited to perform in international events. She also received awards from multiple organisations, including Forbes and DjaneTop. The latter ranked her as the best female DJ in Africa and South Africa in 2018 and 2019. Forbes, on the other hand, announced the entertainer as the winner of the Forbes Woman Africa Entertainer Award 2020. She also received recognition from Oprah Magazine as one of the 21 Most Powerful Women and Glamour Magazine, as Woman of the Year.
Jiyane as a Singer and an Author
The mother of one, Kairo Owethu Forbes, has a couple of songs under her name. Some of these songs went to become hits soon after their release. To date, she has a couple of EP’s and albums in her name.
Aside from singing and deejaying, Dj Zinhle has co-written a book with Nokubona. The book, Meeting Your Power: Returning Home to Yourself was released in 2018 and became a bestseller. Indeed Ntombezinhle Jiyane epitomises the belief that a person should stretch beyond their reach to turn a dream into a reality.
Jiyane as One of SA’s Women Entrepreneurs
Jiyane’s entrepreneurial interest spans multiple sectors, including jewellery, alcohol and beverage, fashion, and interior design.
Businesses Owned by Jiyane
The multi-talented entertainer owns several businesses in South Africa. After starting her deejaying school in 2009, the celebrated DJ launched a fashion brand, Era, in 2012. She has since gone ahead to launch more than four other businesses that have caused ripples in their respective industries. These businesses include:
- Boulevard Rose
Dj Zinhle bought equity in Boulevard Brand in 2020 and became the CEO of Boulevard Nectar Rose. After that, she launched her signature edition, MCC, in late December 2020.
- Jiyane Atelier
Jiyane Atelier was co-founded by the ambitious entertainer DJ Zinhle and businessman Brandon Reynolds. It was launched in 2018 to cater for the interior design needs of homes. With a clear vision and description, Jiyane Atelier seeks to establish itself as a business leader in interior design through unique design and comfort designs. More precisely, the company “strives to create a high-end retail environment that focuses on customer service combined with the retail experience of exceptional service, paying close attention to detail, with a feel for what each piece would feel like in the customer’s own environment. Our mission has always been to get this right from the moment we opened our doors.”
- Era by DJ Zinhle
Era by DJ Zinhle is a luxury fashion accessory brand founded in 2012. The brand Era started out as a luxury watch brand. However, it has morphed into an accessory brand that accommodates a variety of fashion accessories. The brand is characterised by style and sophistication. DJ Zinhle developed this brand around the idea that women should use their present moment in their life to achieve their desires.
- Bryanston Luxury Apartment on AirBnB Rentals
The top female DJ in South Africa also has money in real estate. She has a luxury apartment listed on AirBnB rentals. This house has the finest furniture from his interior design business, a good quality kitchen and a dressing room. To top it all, the house is furnished with all the necessary utilities, including but not limited to WiFi.
- Fuse Academy and Latest Business Ventures
Until 2018 when the school was closed, DJ Zinhle ran a deejaying academy alongside Nomndeni. The school’s main purpose was to hold the hands of women with an eye for a career in entertainment. Fuse academy was closed in 2018 after running for over 8 years.
Other than these, Jiyane has her hands in other businesses. In 2021, she announced a collaboration with a popular jewellery business, Nungu Diamonds, on a much-awaited new jewellery collection. She also launched customised face masks alongside Jireh Wellness. In November 2020, DJ Zinhle launched EraVision, a sunglasses collection. This was added to her existing brand, Era by Zinhle.
You probably know her as the kitchen queen because of her great cooking, creative recipes and charming personality. Siba Mtongana is a South African TV personality and celebrity chef. Born on December 10th, 1984, in East London, South Africa, the celebrated chef has grown to become a world-renown food expert. To put this to perspective the South African celebrity chef was declared one of the 7 Food Goddesses in the World by Tatler Malaysia.
The celebrated chef is a food editor and host of Siba’s table, a food show on Food Network. Recently, she reinvented herself and formed a company dubbed The Siba Co.
Siba Before Her Celebrity Status
Before becoming who we know her to be, Siba was a magazine food editor and a model. She studied Food and Consumer Sciences with majors in Food Sciences and Nutrition.
Siba Mtongana as a Celebrity Chef
When Siba first graced the airwaves, her cooking status as a premier culinary expert was established in the hearts and minds of South Africans and the world at large. Her show elevated her to a global food celebrity in over 135 countries and more than 60 million homes across the United States through the cooking channel.
Mtongana is one of the demanded celebrity chefs in local and international television programs. This also extends to food magazine covers and food festivals across the globe.
Cook Book: My Table
In 2015, she released a book, My Table, which became a best seller of its kind in its retail category. The book was exclusively published and marketed by her company, The Siba Co. Soon after, the book won two awards at the popular Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in China. Due to these awards, she went down as the first South African to ever receive a Special Award of the Jury. Other than this, she has 4 local awards and 5 US Film and Television awards under her belt.
The Siba Co
The Siba Co is a food solution and innovation holding company. In 2019, the company was commissioned by the South African presidency to develop and oversee the VIP menu during the inauguration of President Cyril Ramaphosa. At the event, the company was supposed to serve 450 guests of high ranks and mettle. Among the guests were global business moguls, former presidents, kings and queens.
Born in Kroonstad, Free state, Palesa has grown to become one of South Africa’s leading entrepreneurial women in 2021. She founded a clothing brand, Mantsho, in 2004, and since then, her designs have taken the world by storm. Mantsho brand is known for its edgy and bold designs that challenge conventional cloth designs. These designs have been showcased in runaways across the world, including in India, Nigeria, Senegal, New York, and Greece.
Mokubung joined Stoned Cherrie and became the company’s leading designer. However, she left the label in 2004 to start her own company, Mantsho. Under this brand, Palesa has a wide variety of product lines, including the Palesa Mokubung jeans and Mantsho designer dresses.
Palesa Beyond Clothing
The fashion enthusiast has extended her reach beyond apparel. Recently, she partnered with Airloom, a South African top decor company, to produce fashion floors art pieces such as cushions and rugs.
Palesa also collaborated with Miss Universe 2019, Zozibini Tunzi, and an insurance company, 1st for Women, to create T-shirt designs using bold Mantsho prints embellished with the term “FEARLESS.” This product was in support of a campaign urging women to be and live fearless lives. A minimum of 20% profit made from the sale of these products will be channelled to 1st for Women Foundation to help in the fight against abuse of children and women.
Palesa and H&M
H&M, a Swedish clothing retailer, invited Palesa to work with them in 2019, a request that she accepted. This made her the first African designer to ever work with the cloth retailer. H&M established the H&M South African branch in Durban.
Celeste Margo Le Roux
Le Roux is a South African female entrepreneur who destroyed stereotypes in the South African construction industry. She is a co-founder and chief executive officer of React24 and a co-founder of React Training College. Recently, Le Roux bagged the Top Woman Entrepreneur Award at the 2020 Standard Bank Top Women Awards.
Le Roux has contributed significantly to the improvement of South Africa’s construction industry by initiating transformative strategies. She has also contributed to meaningful change in gender empowerment in the country. This role earned her The 2020 Woman Mentor of the Year, which was bestowed to her during the first Empowerment and Recognition of Women in Construction Awards.
Her company, React24, has evolved to become a national site services company dealing in a number of built environment disciplines. It also serves the commercial, industrial, retail, and residential markets.
Celeste’s Aspirations for 2021
When asked what her aspirations were for 2021, the award-winning entrepreneur said:
“The most important goal for me this year is to give a voice to the many nameless, faceless individuals who are really struggling. I think especially of the impoverished, who need an opportunity to better their lives. So, social projects are definitely on the cards. This year I am also excited to partner with like-minded, dynamic women that want to make an impactful change in our communities and South Africa as a whole. I think that the representation of women, especially women of colour, should increase on executive boards, which is one of my goals. I also feel, like in the past, I have been very conservative in taking on projects. However, after winning this award, I feel like I have the vigour to take on more exciting challenges and push myself.“
With 20 years of experience in the construction industry and entrepreneurship, Le Roux encourages women to believe in themselves and work hard.
Joining few women brewers in Africa, Apiwe Nxusani-Mawelai is the first black female brewer in South Africa. She founded a microbrewery, Brewsters Craft, which offers brewery training to students and beer quality testing to other breweries. Like most women entrepreneurs in this list, she has chosen to trade in one of the controversial sectors in Africa.
The South African born and bred beer queen grew up in Butterworth, Eastern Cape. She acquired a BSc Honours degree in Microbiology from the University of Pretoria after clearing her undergraduate BSc Microbiology from Wits.
Apiwe’s Brewing Background
Apiwe joined the University of Pretoria when the school’s Microbiology Department was launching a brewing diploma in association with FoodBev SETA and South African Breweries (SAB). After completing the course, out of her ten classmates, four, including her, joined the SAB’s graduate recruitment program, where she undertook an 18-month internship. She went ahead to complete a Diploma in Brewing as well as a Master Brewer Diploma via the Institute of Brewing and Distilling to become a certified brewing trainer.
Apiwe is also in South Africa’s history books as the first South African to successfully go through the National Diploma in Clear Fermented Beverages (through the FoodBev SETA). Additionally, she holds a Beer Judge Certification Program that allows her to judge beer.
In 2014, Apiwe joined hands with smokehouse pub, Hogshead, and craft beer to begin the Brewhogs Microbrewery. Here she served as the co-owner and brewmaster before leaving in 2017 to start her own company, Brewsters Craft.
Brewster Craft is Apiwe’s first solo venture that solidified her position among women entrepreneurs in South Africa. It is a microbrewery located in Roodepoort, Johannesburg. The company has a one thousand litre contract brewery and extends laboratory services to brewing companies to ensure the quality of beer.
The company also has a training school that offers internships and NQF3 brewing qualifications, and General Certificate in Brewing and Diploma in Brewing. It is accredited by the FoodBev SETA and the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, respectively.
Until 2019, the company provided contract manufacturing. Later, it launched its own cider and beer brand, Tolokazi, made from indigenous African raw materials.
Brewsters Craft scooped an award alongside six other winners in the entrepreneurship competition by TV channel VIA. Some of the benefits each of these winners will enjoy include publicity on different print media as well as marketing on VIA.
Triple Eight describes itself as Africa’s top socially conscious marketing, PR and digital agency focusing on purpose-driven, influencer and community marketing. The company is largely a female-led agency serving the needs of world-renown brands. By working with more women, the agency encourages women entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams and aspirations.
“Our mission is to craft high impact, world-class campaigns that matter and drive strong shared value for brands, people and our planet. We strive to make a difference by staying true to our values of creativity with purpose, innovation for impact and executional excellence. Triple Eight is leading the way in a new-age form of marketing, producing work that achieves business and social results, wins awards and gains mass recognition for our clients.”
The company was announced in the Global Purpose Awards 2020, UK, as the agency of the year. This award celebrates companies that successfully promote a positive course using creative ideas. The award targets agencies, charities, public sector bodies, NGOs, and brands across Africa, Middle East, and Europe.
Amy Jephta is disrupting the South African entertainment scene with her great writing and movie production. One of her greatest works yet is Barakat. Barakat is a South African Muslim movie done in Afrikaans. It is also the first movie of its kind to win Best Narrative at the 23rd Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Festival in America. The movie based on the culture and life of residents of Cape flats was released in South Africa in May 2021.
Jephta is a South African theatre director, screenwriter, and playwright. The young director put her skills to the test when she directed the successful Barakat movie. Her other works include, ‘Ellen: The Ellen Pakkies Story, Kristalvlakte, Other People’s Lives, ‘While You Weren’t Looking, and Sonskyn Beperk.
Other than directing, Jephta is also the co-founder of Nagvlug Films, a production company, joining a growing list of women entrepreneurs in South Africa.
South Africa has proven time and again its ability to accommodate positive change. The country, through her people, is yet again accepting the new changes in the form of women entrepreneurs. These seven women entrepreneurs are proof of this observation. They are disrupting their respective fields of interest and setting the pace for other women to follow. Soon enough, a significant number of South African women will break away from the norm and take up more responsibility in entrepreneurship, among other areas. In the same vein, the pacesetters will continue to redefine the limits and raise the bar by stretching their hands beyond their reach to break barriers.