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Women entrepreneurs innovating during COVID-19

THE BARONESSES: Owners of the upmarket liquor outlet, Baroness- Lady Noble and Gatsi Bogatsu Nkwe

Sink or swim… fight or flight? That’s what most entrepreneurs have had to grapple with during this year of unprecedented challenges.

As we put a lid on 2020, Voice Woman speaks to five women entrepreneurs who have been able to swim against the tide of despair, and fight for the survival of their businesses.

Lebo’s Gifting

“Clothes, high fashion especially, just won’t sell as well as they used to. Just like the entertainment industry, we’ve been greatly affected by covid-19 protocols; few events mean fewer clients as people don’t go out as much as they used to,” said the former Boutique owner and insurance broker, Malebogo Ncaagae.

Ncaagae enrolled in a weeklong Fodder and Flower Arrangement course at BUAN right after the first lockdown.

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“ I decided to start a business that would be more lucrative. I love beautiful things and I’m creative, so I did my research and began Lebo Flowers and gifting the very week I took the course.”

A believer in her own abilities, the ambitious 43-year-old aspires to grow the business to match that of existing industry giants, saying, “After all we source from the same suppliers”. She has been inundated with calls from corporate organisations and individual clients. Her orders can be in excess of 200 a month and prides herself in supporting other SMMEs who supply her with.

She has just one assistant who’s learning on the job. Her advice to entrepreneurs is; “ There’s a lot of businesses that we can go into. Get in the habit of having multiple sources of income. Be brave to enter into any industry, realistically so. Government must also be cognizant of the fact not everyone wants to or can be a farmer, so capital to venture into other industries must be made more accessible.”

Spelete – ‘Cauzing Traffic in RSA!’

Tshegofatso Powane, 40, was in the construction industry when Covid-19 hit. During the first lockdown, she happened on a brother’s Facebook post that an associate of his, Johannes Mahlangu (owner of Spelete, a clothing and sneaker brand) was looking for franchisees.

“Mine was a divine connection because Godfrey is a brother my husband and I met while visiting church in Pretoria.”

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She says after consulting her husband, she contacted the franchisor immediately to find out how much the franchise was.

“He said 300k and offered me the North West province to operate in.” Through his brother, Hlogwane, the mother-of-four sought out a franchise agreement lawyer in South Africa, found space in a mall in Rustenburg and everything was done while I was right here.”

It was only in November, just before borders opened, that she was able to travel across the border to see her store.

She said she was fearless and confident that she couldn’t go wrong with the South African market. Despite the brand’s slogan “Cauzing Traffic in RSA,” the brand has also been well received in Botswana.

“Batswana are so supportive; I have sold close to 100 000 sneakers locally in almost 4 months. I only advertise via social media. Most of my customers buy sneakers for the entire family. I hope to inspire other Batswana to be brave in business, venture out and trust in God. Don’t rely too much on government; find investors.” The sneakers are priced from R1 200 to R1 900.

Mma Sgotti’s Gourmet Bakes

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“I do gourmet bakes specialising in Custom Cookies.” Known as Mma Sgotti’s Gourmet Bakes, the business was born out of not only the necessity to survive, but also a very personal journey of discovery.

“I co-founded Sgotti, a restaurant popular for serving local cuisine in 2006. Having already suffered a knock due to the city’s high rentals, Covid-19 did not help.” During the first lockdown, she started baking to feed her large family.

This evolved into being creative with the bakes to what she has currently.

Her advice to entrepreneurs is, “persevere… find a niche and develop it!” Orders can be placed via WhatsApp on 72606796. Email tebogo.matenge@gmail.com. Visit us on FB – Mma Sgotti’s Gourmet Bakes. We can courier countrywide at the clients’ request and for their own account.

Baroness

Located at Setlhoa’s upmarket Design Quarter mall, the baroness is a boutique liquor outlet that is owned by two wine connoisseurs, Lady Noble and Gatsi Bogatsu Nkwe.

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The store caters to the discerning customer who enjoys premium products and services.

“We opened a high-end liquor store that offers a unique experience. Our clients know what they want and if we don’t have that in stock we source their favourites.”

Though it was scheduled to open in April this year, plans were halted due to lockdowns.

But in September, the duo bravely went ahead with their dream. While other plans – like intimate tasting sessions and the addition of a cigar humidor – have since been shelved, the owners promise to launch an app soon.

Their advice to fellow entrepreneurs; don’t give up, keep persevering and you’ll get there eventually.”

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