In 2011 Vongai Bhelebana had an idea.
She wanted to provide practical entrepreneurial programs in high schools across South Africa, to simulate the experience of the entrepreneurs journey to better equip teens to become successful.
After years of funding requests being rejected, she decided to run the programs herself.
“I remember I only had R50 on me. I bought airtime. I called several schools offering my product until one school said, come let's talk,” she told us.
“I had my first paying client within five days of deciding to be the master of my own destiny. I had nothing different to offer from the initial idea. The only thing that changed was me,” she explained.
Now Vongai serves as Director and Co-Founder of EntreAcademy, a business that runs entrepreneurship workshops in high schools. Her daily job covers roles from business development and curriculum development to sales and customer service.
“There is only one you in all of time,” she stresses, “and that expression of you is unique and if you do not use the gifts that you have to run your business the world would have lost that expression forever, and what a shame that would be.”
Tamsin Kolbe founded her business in just one week, in 2018.
“I had decided to stay home after my son was born, but needed something to do and we were struggling as a one income household. So I set up my packages and rates and started advertising on Facebook,” she told us.
“Within hours a client got in touch, we had a Skype chat, a contract was signed and I had her up and running within days. She introduced me to another potential client and it all snowballed from there. In the space of a month I went from one client to seven!”
As the principal member of Social Happiness, a digital marketing strategy solution, Tamsin develops strategies alongside her clients.
“I think the most important thing is to just do it,” she tells prospective entrepreneurs, “You will never know if it will work out until you try. Today I am sitting next to my first intern, not even a year after launch.”
Encore Clothing was launched in 2017, from founder Lara Rocchi’s home.
“I realised that there was a gap in the market for a place where women could sell their upmarket clothing without hassle or fuss,” she told us.
“On the flip side, I discovered a demand for excellent quality gently used work clothing.”
Within a week of deciding to start the business, she set up the online store and had a business Facebook page. “I was prepping for a launch date in a week or two, but I got an order rather unexpectedly. I didn’t have the courier set up so I had to go to Postnet to send it off,” she recalls.
“I spent my entire profit from that first order on courier charges! I quickly got a courier contract in place and have been going strong ever since.”
Lara’s official titles are Founder and CEO, but she also serves as accountant, marketer, order preparer and more. She warns those with a business idea to not be too set on starting too fast.
“If it happens that way, great, but don’t rush the process. Let it take its course and do your homework properly. If it takes off quickly then consider yourself lucky.”
She also advises entrepreneurs to “do something that the market needs, not just something that you love.”
None of these stories are unusual to the founders of Future Females South Africa.
In fact, they believe so strongly that a woman can launch a business in just a few days, that they recently ran a free five day mini-program called Five Days to Start.
The program consists of a daily video tutorial accompanied by a workbook for members to put their new knowledge to use. The goal is to bring their idea out of their head and into reality, program manager Sasha Zakharova told us.
“We wanted to offer our community something accessible, and challenge them to kick-start their business ideas, with each day focused on a key action covering mindset shift, idea clarity, brand definition, finding your tribe and perfecting your elevator pitch. It has been one of our most successful campaigns to date and we are looking to do two challenges of this nature per year.”
If you can’t wait for the next campaign, here is a breakdown of the daily challenges to start you thinking along the right track:
Day 1: Mindset Shift
Break through your self-limitations and unlock your full entrepreneurial potential.
Day 2: Define Your Idea
Get your idea out of your head and down on paper, and refine this until you’ve identified the most productive and profitable product to start with.
Day 3: Brand Definition
Build an enviable and memorable brand that will draw the right customers, staff and media to your business.
Day 4: Find Your Niche
Find the exact people who will buy what you’re selling and become loyal advocates of your business.
Day 5: Your Elevator Pitch
Get your one-minute pitch down, so you can confidently start communicating. There is no straight and narrow in entrepreneurship, Sasha says, and sometimes it can be discouraging so it's important to have a strong community and give positive affirmation.
“51% of entrepreneurs voted mindset and confidence as the number one challenge holding them back. You can have an incredible business idea, but if you don’t have the mindset to pursue it or execute it nothing will come of it. Once your mindset is right, then implementing the technical strategies becomes a lot easier and effective.”
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