Gugu Nonjinge: “What you want exists, pray for it, wait for it and be willing to work hard for it”
Nomahlubi Hewu: “Life will always give what you put in it”
What is your story (tell us about yourself)?
Gugu Nonjinge: “I always refer to myself as a serial social entrepreneur because of the work I do. Presently, I a Senior Advocacy Officer at the Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation. My areas of interest lie between gender and climate justice.
From a young age, I have been determined to stand up for, and empower women. My drive intensified when I got to high school and began to tutor my peers and girls in grades lower than mine in science and mathematics. Since then, my social entrepreneurship work has been mandated to mentoring girls and advocating for the advancement of their rights.”
Nomahlubi Hewu: “I am a wife, a mentor, an aspiring businesswoman and a Professional Property Valuer currently employed in the banking sector.
For as long as I can remember, entrepreneurship has always been a part of my life. I started “selling” from a very young age and throughout the years I have failed in many businesses or side hustles for various reasons.
One of my goals as an entrepreneur is to build thriving businesses that will be a solution to the rising youth unemployment in South Africa. I aim to equip young people with the necessary skills and experience to start and run their own businesses.”
When did you start your first business and what inspired you to start?
Individually we have started a number of businesses, both for profit and non-profit. ASANA Beauty however was founded in 2019 to suit the lifestyle of a contemporary woman.
What inspired us to start is the absence of hair salons in Cape Town that have expert knowledge on dreadlocks and natural hair, offering a clean and safe environment with good service. The majority of the existing hair salons are located in areas that are less desirable, the environment is not clean, not safe and does not adhere to Covid-19 safety regulations.
Our purpose for ASANA was to also offer end to end holistic services that include hair care from highly qualified hairstylists
What is the Key Objective(s) and Vision of your business? (Has it changed overtime or is has it always been this?)
We are passionate about excellent client service and that is something we are unapologetic about. ASANA’s main goal is to offer more than just hair care and styling. As a result, one of our core objectives is to create a community and sisterhood that is a safe space and also a conducive platform for knowledge sharing.
What challenges did you face in your journey? What’s the biggest obstacle you had to overcome (are still overcoming)?
The hair industry which is a service industry is quite saturated. In South Africa for example, the black hair care industry was considered the largest in Africa according to the Professional Hair Care Market SA 2010 Report. As big as the industry may be, there is a lack of financial assistance for hair salons and that was one of the biggest challenges for us. As result it was difficult for us to secure a financial sponsor/investor to assist with some of the unexpected costs we encountered.
To sort of mitigate this, we had to save up a bit longer in order for us to be able to get the type of salon we wanted. This did however delay and prolong our timelines.
How did you manage to navigate your company through this period of the Covid-19 pandemic? (What business strategies/operational adjustments have you made over this period and how has it impacted your business model?)
We had the idea to start ASANA in 2019 which was pre-Covid, although Covid may have had a contribution to delaying the opening we weren’t directly affected. As a matter of fact, the pandemic created opportunities for us which we could not have anticipated. We were able to plan better and factor in the unpredictable changes within the business environment.
How do you approach networking and building partnerships in your industry?
Social media has made it easier to collaborate and network with other brands. We have been able to connect with natural hair brand founded by other women. We have been able to connect to a client base on social media through our networks. The hair industry is definitely one that relays on word of mouth, as a result we priories networking and telling people we meet about ASANA.
Do you have (or ever had) a mentor in your journey, and do you believe it helped (if yes, in what way)?
As a collective, we draw our inspiration from various women in and outside our field, out families are our raison d’être.
What is your perspective on the South African entrepreneurial landscape before and after Covid-19 pandemic? (Would you say the “new normal” context drives more or less opportunities for entrepreneurs?) How can entrepreneurial policy development aid in expanding opportunities in this new context?
The pandemic created opportunities for entrepreneurs that were ready to take the opportunities. A lot of businesses within our industry did not make it past the pendamic/lockdown, that left a lot of clients without hair salons to go to. This also means that as a startup we can learn from the shortcomings of these businesses and apply necessary strategies to our business.
Entrepreneurs don’t get enough financial support/aid, more so startup businesses. More platforms that support startup need to be created to not only offer financial support but business education and training as well.
In your opinion, what are the secrets to being a successful entrepreneur?
Successful entrepreneurs value and priorities people. People are the core of any business, that being your employees, clients and community. Understanding that the value of your business lies in people is key. If people are happy first, money will definitely be the reward.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
Be willing to choose entrepreneur journey every day because it is not an easy journey. It can be difficult and very lonely at times. As an entrepreneur you also need to be willing to the extra mile.