Maphefo Ingrid Mashigo: I hated every minute of the corporate world

How many single mothers and divorced women do you know in the modeling industry? From that number, do you know any that will leave their stable job with guaranteed income to introduce young, unknown girls from the village into the world of modeling? Well, meet Maphefo Ingrid Mashigo. Maphefo is the young Limpopo-born woman who opened up Bokamoso Future Models to young women in rural areas. Maphefo doesn’t just discover models, she produces them. To Maphefo, models are her ‘rare, raw, rough diamonds’.

When did you know modeling was in you?

Modeling runs in my family, I was inspired by my aunts and uncles. They were models in the local scene and I got to love modelling because of them. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always loved the spotlight. I did a lot of drama and beauty pageants from the age of six.

Like I have mentioned, my surrounding was a big influence.

Tell us about Bokamoso Future Models. What have you  achieved to date?

With Bokamoso Future Models, I produce models from the rural areas who have never modeled before. I want to bring them to the international stage. For a company that is only eight months old, we have shaken the industry and are taking it by storm. Before people know it, they won’t know what hit them. I am so happy to announce that I have a model that is going to represent South Africa at the Miss Heritage International that will be taking place in India this December.

I look up to the likes of Tyra Banks who has her own production company. I would want to be remembered as an icon.

There are so many modeling agencies out there, what are you bringing that is different?

Unlike any other agency, I don’t sign models, I produce them. That is a big difference.

I spend a lot of time, until the wee hours of the morning hosting extensive trainings and workshops. I provide transport for my models to castings, auditions and shoots; they don’t have to pay for such services. More than anything else, I mentor them.

In an industry that is clouded by a lot of negativity such drugs, alcohol and also anorexia, How do you guard yourself and your models against it all?

Morals are something that were instilled in me by my grandparents from a very young age. I am personally not a huge fan of alcohol and my parents taught me those things are demonic. I have never forgot those lessons. The fact that I am a Christian and a huge believer helps and guides me in everything I do.

How did you find the corporate world and when did you know it was time to leave?

Corporate world? I hated every minute of it. I never looked forward to going to the office. The idea of working for someone else was slowly killing me daily as I’ve always wanted to be independent. The salary was good and it got me by, but I was never happy.

The fear of living an unhappy life forever based on a good salary was not part of my plans. Maphefo had to come to life.

Being a single mother and business owner in the shrewd modelling industry, how do you handle everything?

We have an amazing father called God, through him, all things are possible.

The father of my child does not support her in any form but we are surviving through the angels that God had sent through. I have amazing friends, business associates and parents who look out for us and assist me with anything I need.

The world has so many ills, what calms you down?

I am very family oriented and my daughter calms me down.

You have a hoarse voice, have you ever been mistaken for a man on the phone?

Hahahaha, no! I am instead encouraged to do radio presenting. I have such a deep, strong voice even if I can say so myself.

Want to see women you know featured on SLA? Tell us what amazing things women are doing in your communities here.

Olebogeng Sentsho: We must be Afrocentric in our approach to mining and the economy

The mining industry may not be first choice for a young woman looking to start a profitable venture. Not for Olebogeng Sentsho. Olebogeng is a one woman force shaking things up for the better in the South African mining and waste management industry. Her company Yeabo Mining is completely owned by black women but it doesn’t stop there. Through her initiatives, Olebogeng works towards improving rural communities and empowering women. Here she shares insights into the mining industry and why it needs to be Afrocentric.

 Strategic waste management? What lead you to that industry?
As an investment analyst, I was exposed to many proposals in many fields. One of the proposals that came across my desk was for a tailings plant on one of the mines a client was looking to invest in. The plan was flawed and subsequently abandoned by the mine owners. I then requested their permission to improve their model and approach investors for funding. They agreed. Unfortunately, the project was capital intensive and any capital that was coming my way would take months to get to me. I had to make a living so my husband suggested we go pick up steel balls on an abandoned mine and sell them for cash. We did. We made R150 000. From there we approached other mines and realised that the service was in demand. That is how we started.
How did you make the switch from waste management to finance?
Once Yeabo Mining was up and running, we noticed a huge demand in requests for collaboration. This was not because we were the best at what we were doing, it was because our collaborators needed the funding an operation like ours could source.
We are 100% black female owned and the legislation in South Africa is such that we receive preference when we apply for funding. There are also more funding opportunities for businesses that are owned by young, black women. Once we isolated this need, we thought it prudent to investigate and set up a fund that supports junior mining operations. We currently have four clients on our books who mine silica, manganese, gold and chrome.
IMG_0384How can waste be converted into a revenue stream?
Many of the products used in the mining process and the by products of mining still have value even though they have been used. For example, steel is used in the liners that line equipment in the concentrator plant. Once they are worn out; they are discarded and replaced. Each liner weighs 2 tons and there can be 18- 34 liners per plant.
We retrieve the liners from the dump and sell them to a recycler for R1900 per ton. Combine this with about 300 tons of steel balls and you have a legitimate revenue stream. Also, when a specific mineral is removed from the ore, other minerals that are equally valuable remain. Most mines ignore these other minerals if they don’t form part of their core business. Yeabo Mining exploits these minerals and processes them. These are just a few of the ways we generate income from waste.
Considering the sometimes tense nature of mining in South Africa, does social responsibility feature in your business?
Social responsibility is a big part of why we do. Yeabo Mining supports female owned SMME’s (Small Micro medium enterprises) by giving them preference when we do our procurement. We also mentor several young people, many of whom are trying to start businesses in the industry. Mining is treacherous and having someone who is already in the business looking out for you is an advantage.
Also, Yeabo Mining collaborates with community outreach programmes that educate and empower young people in the fields of maths and science. We are a proud patron of the Mining Innovation Initiative of South Africa (MIISA).
BxKqZz12You mentioned that you are engaged in other initiatives, tell us about them.
MIISA is a holder of rights for several initiatives. There is “Let your light shine”, a renewable energy initiative that teaches women how to build solar lamps and sell them for cash. We also have Innovo Health Systems, which provides mobile hospital facilities for rural communities and the MIISA school for Mathematical Excellence and Science Innovation which are a series of pop up schools in the Sekhukhune area of Limpopo that facilitate maths and science clinics for secondary school learners.
The primary goal of these endeavours is to create an industry where South Africa can beneficial its own minerals. We want to ensure that mining builds sustainable, well serviced communities in the area where the specific mines are based. Mines have to be catalysts for change and improved living conditions. It cannot be that Africa provides the world with wealth yet that wealth fails to translate into improved living conditions and lives of the Africans who live and work in these communities.
We must strive to be Afro-centric in our approach to mining and the economy. All efforts must be made to ensure that wealth is not in the hands of a few. No one makes it if we all don’t make it. An inclusive mining economy that focuses its resources on social upliftment and education is a catalyst for an Africa that produces leaders and productive contributors to the country’s GDP.
What advice would you give other young African women looking to make a change in their communities?
As young women in Africa, our mandate is clear. It is incumbent upon us to provide skills and leadership for the improvement of our communities. We can’t sit and wait for opportunities to participate; we have to innovate, pioneer solutions for ourselves so that we can lead the agenda of a transformed and progressive African economy. These dreams cannot be achieved by a continent with hungry people. We must focus on the immediate needs of our people and find our own rhythm for the advancement of our continent. We must take responsibility for our future.

This has been really insightful. Lastly, what was the last picture you took on your phone?

Hahahahaha!!! Bad hair day!!!


If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

Seapei Mafoyane: Fill yourself up with hope, belief and pure audacity

Shanduka Black Umbrellas CEO, Seapei Mafoyane

Small business is seen by many in South Africa as the saving grace in the fight against unemployment and with the track record of small business success, measured interventions to bolster this sector receive a lot of attention.

One such intervention is Shanduka Black Umbrellas (SBU), a business incubation programme in South Africa that is focused on supporting small black business on its path to achieve sustainability. SBU is arguably the top business incubator in South Africa, recognised for the solid interventions it is making to corporatize black businesses.

2015 was a watershed year for the incubator, as it celebrated six years in existence and won the Randall M. Whaley Incubator of the Year Award at the National Business Incubation Association in the United States.

To top it all off, they appointed Ms. Seapei Mafoyane as the new Chief Executive Officer. Seapei is a bold woman who believes that South Africa needs sustained long-term impact interventions to make notable strides in small business development. She defines this as her mission in her role as CEO.

SLA contributor Asanda spoke to her to understand how she sees the small business landscape in South Africa going forward and most importantly, the role SBU will play in the years ahead.


You have spent a significant amount of your professional career in strategy and financial services, how did you make your way to small business development in the not-for-profit space?

I worked in strategy and the financial services in various capacities for my entire career and this was in line with my undergraduate degree in the sciences. I came into direct contact with the small business development area during my MBA studies at Wits Business School a few years ago.

My research focused on an area that was not explored at the time, the challenges facing black female entrepreneurs in South Africa. It was during this time that I realised I had to be selfish and follow my heart. So you could say my dissertation led me to Shanduka Black Umbrellas.

Everyone is talking about small business development and how it can be the saving grace for the current economic climate is South Africa, why do you think it is receiving so much attention?

I think we have the buzz that we have now in South Africa because of the realisation of the dire needs in this country in terms of entrepreneurial activity and the economy as a whole. Sustained security of the black person is no longer in the employ of the white person. Black people can now dare to dream.

The challenge is to ensure that it is not just a buzz but that we have a coordinated approach from the various stakeholders that will ensure that we start seeing the upside to it.

What role has Shanduka Black Umbrellas played in the past to grow black business?

Shanduka Group has played a key role in setting the stage for the face of black business in the country. They led the pack in the establishment of a black-owned investment holding company in S.A. and it was a natural progression to have a foundation that focuses on both small business development and education.

What sets SBU apart is the clear focus that says, ‘we know we cannot be everything to everyone.’ So we chose to respond to the need of 100% black-owned businesses, which also happens to be the greatest area of need in terms of entrepreneurial activity in the country.

The businesses that are incubated at SBU are what we call the ‘cream of the crop’ in terms of entrepreneurial potential. We incubate businesses that will be sustainable so that they can improve the economic conditions in the country.

Our focus is not on survivalist businesses, but game changers and high impact entrepreneurs that can grow into large corporations and employers.

Over the last five years, SBU’s statistics have shown that out of the 100 business owners that walk through our doors, only 5% of them get to be incubated. This is because we have a clear focus on long-term sustainability and choose to support businesses, which can meet our strategic objectives which are aligned to the country’s National Development Plan (NDP).

What sets your business incubator apart from other incubators in the country?

We conducted extensive research on the trends in small business development and we found that 84% of small businesses fail within the first 24 months of operation and out of that, 90% are black businesses. Reducing the failure rate especially of black business is extremely important and that is why we have our mandate to respond to this group in particular.

When a business is accepted into our extensive 36-month program, they need to create a minimum of four jobs during that time. Other structures in South Africa on the other hand create on average 1.2 jobs and when you look at other developing nations, the figure sits at 3.3 jobs over the same period.

Our other focus is to ensure that at least 50% of the businesses that graduate from our program are sustainable. The national average of success currently stands at about 20%. SBU have maintained a statistic of 70% graduation sustainability over the last few years.

What has the business incubation industry and government not done well thus far?

What has not been done well is the maximising of all the available resources in the system to help execute the mandate.

The value chain for small business is still very disjointed and if we are to make the progress needed, this needs to change.

What are your priorities as the Chief Executive of SBU?

No doubt sustained long term impact. However there are a few things that need to happen for that to be realised. We want to not only see businesses doing well but as they graduate, they need to stay a part of the alumni of successful businesses which others starting up can look to for advice, mentorship and potentially market access.

I believe that it is this kind of growth that is needed in small business to start seeing long term, sustained impact. Outside of my work, my greatest passion is the restoration of the dignity of the black person and entrepreneurship is one of those vehicles that can help in the achievement of that.

What have you found to be the greatest challenges facing entrepreneurs?

I have found that the greatest misconception that exists with entrepreneurs is that they need funding to get their businesses going. I have found the main challenge as refining of the business model to ensure that there is a unique value proposition and a plan for scaling the business.

Having said that, SME’s need to take it a step further to understand how to support it once they have scaled it. Other challenges you find are:

  • The business is often the person and they tend to be married to their ideas and they are not open to taking in other peoples’ sound advice; and
  • The inability to adapt the offering to suit the demand of its clients. Most entrepreneurs do not take well to rejection and unless they are able to deal with this, it can be a stumbling block for their growth potential.

What would you say is the one thing SBU needs to work on?

Only 38% of incubated businesses at Shanduka Black Umbrellas are female, in a national population of 50% females. This is a gap that needs to be filled. Women tend to approach entrepreneurship differently, espousing the nurture inherent in them as opposed to the courage often required to start & run a business.

Women have made great strides in politics as seen in our parliament and in other growing sectors and we need to see this boldness in the area of entrepreneurship.

I do believe we will get there as a country as a whole and we, SBU included, need to drive that message of confidence in the abilities of women in business.

What advice do you have for business owners who say this journey is far more than what they bargained for?

You need to be clear about why you want in, in the first place. You need to fill yourself up with hope, belief and pure audacity because there will certainly be bumps along the way and when you reach them, you can dip into your bag of goodness to stay afloat.

Want to see women you know featured on SLA? Tell us what amazing things women are doing in your communities here.

6 career lessons you can learn from South African singer Lira

miss lira

Not many singers can say they have sung Nelson Mandela’s favorite song to him on his birthday, have performed with the whole world watching during the World Cup, or sold-out tours in the U.S.A.

But, South African singer-songwriter, Miss Lira, can! With various awards and critically acclaimed albums on her shelf, Lira has plenty career advice we can watch and learn from.

1. Be open to inspiration

Lira talks about personal influences and explains the effect Stevie Wonder has had on her growing up: “Music unifies people and expresses feelings they might not be able to articulate. That made me want to be a songwriter. I thought, if there’s any reason to write music, that’s a good enough reason right there.”

Inspiration for a career or a business can come from reading , observation and listening to others. Being open-minded can really open new doors for you.

2. Choose what makes you feel good

“I used to be an accountant, and chose to become a musician. And that whole transition, going from earning a great income to starting a career as a musician… I was like, am I out of my mind? What was I thinking? But I just wanted to feel good. On a daily basis, I wanted to feel excited about life and my plans.”

If what you do for a living is not fulfilling, if it’s not what makes your heart beat faster, it’s not too late to chase after your career dreams.lira

3. Work with what you have

A great quote from Lira: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are right now.”

You may not have it all at once, but you’ve already got something. Lira lets us know it’s most important to keep going, and not let temporary circumstance weigh us down.

4. Explore your options

Lira’s American fans had been reaching out online, requesting her to come sing in The States. But prior to her huge U.S. tour, Lira took some time to check out the scene, and did a mini-tour of 5 shows in different states.

“We had sold-out concerts. There was quite an interest in what I had to offer.” Trying out venues and styles of delivery for your service or product can help you specify your professional approach and guide your career direction.

Photo credit: AfroStyle Magazine

5. Allow yourself to break away from pressure

In a 2013 interview, Lira explained that after 9 years of non-stop work, she wanted to take some time out: “I want to be able to just be, and not feel pressure for a while.”

Encourage yourself to work as hard as your time allows you. And when necessary, after long, busy days, a little time to decompress will have you back on your grind extra strong.

6. Find power in humility

Lira tells us she can find beauty in Africa, America, in Europe, in the East, but: “There’s something that Africa can offer to the world, that the world needs today. There’s an element of humility that we have, that I feel the world has forgotten. We still have a sense of community.”

Taking values from your home front into your business can help you keep track of both your personal and professional growth. If what you’ve learned growing up is accurate to how you want to do business now, that’s something you want to keep close.

What other lessons have you learned from this power house’s journey? Share them with us.