Favorite quote: “Your background should not determine your future and don’t live in the past, in every challenge faced with be enabler”
What is your story (tell us about yourself)?
I was raised by both uneducated and self-employed parents and from family of 8siblings yet that didn’t stop me from pursuing my dreams, today I’m also known as a multi awards winning young female entrepreneur, presented my country South Africa in African countries and Internationally countries. A role model in my community.
I formed an initiative called Soweto Young Women Empowerment advocate who believes in the power of transforming societies and drive change worldwide which has reached and touched the lives of 200women. In 2018 I graduated from an organization Activate as was part of 2 500 young leaders in South Africa driving change.
In the year 2021 I served as an Advisory Committee Member for National Youth ICT Council in efforts to drive youth participation in the digital economy and to ensure that the 4IR is effectively harnessed to address South Africa’s challenges of unemployment and inequality and have achieved the following:
Global Digital Female Leader in Innovation 2020
Levers n Heels Top100 African Women in STEM fighting COVID-19
Mail & Guardian Top200 Young South Africans in Health 2020
NYDA Young Trailblazer 2020
Top25 Emerging Social Innovator Across Africa 2018
I.F Global Entrepreneurial Disruptor 2019
News24 Next Young Nelson Mandela of The Future 2019
Top50 South Africa Inspiring Women in STEM 2019
Top100 South Africa Shining Stars in Science & Technology 2019
BMF Invention & Innovation Programme 1st place Winner 2020
GAP/GATE Awards 3rd place Winner 2019
Africa Youth Awards African Youth of The Year Female Finalist 2020
Top100 Most Young Influential South Africans 2020
Social Innovation Summit 3rd place Winner 2019
Top100 First-watch Entrepreneurship Challenge Finalist 2019
World Women Awards Technology and Innovation Finalist 2020
CIO 100 Africa GreenEdge Award Winner 2021
Black Umbrellas Global Entrepreneurship Week 2nd place Winner 2021
When did you start your first business and what inspired you to start? In year 2018 I had resigned from corporate without any money in my savings account, made decision to fulfill entrepreneurship full-time however had no idea where to start until year 2020 officially founded Uku’hamba Prosthetics and Orthotics (Pty) Ltd and,
I don’t know how it’s like to live without a leg or arm, neither living with someone whom’s amputated but after an encounter with an amputee in Johannesburg, our trailblazer was triggered to improve the lives of amputees, specifically help them gain independence. She carved a niche for herself by focusing on the less privileged amputees and those that are living with physical disabilities. Sibongile took it upon herself and started her entrepreneurial journey after this encounter by researching on the cost-effective means of realising her goal. She ended up being the brain behind Uku’ hamba Prosthetics and Orthotics (Pty) Ltd, an enterprise with the mission of providing cost-effective yet high-quality prostheses, braces and splints to amputees and those living with physical disabilities, to improve their functionality, quality of life, and their independence. Sibongile’s company is bent on empowering amputees and those living with physical disabilities to achieve their goals without limitations.
What is the Key Objective(s) and Vision of your business? (Has it changed overtime or is has it always been this?)
Our objective is to decrease the impact of the impairment and disability on the person, family and society.
The vision of our business is to improve the quality of life of amputees and those living with disabilities.
And Atleast 70% improved access to prostheses. With currently more than 3millions amputees in South Africa only 30% have access to prosthetic care now using advanced technologies and resourceful and recyclable materials ‘s to make mobility accessible to low and middle class, with faster production turnaround time so that amputees living with disabilities cannot face social stigma and dramatically reduced quality of life which often limits their ability to access education and employment.
What challenges did you face in your journey? What’s the biggest obstacle you had to overcome (are still overcoming)?
I was doubted and unfairly challenged because traditionally women have never had a seat at the table and the biggest challenge I faced was penetrating a male dominated industry as young black woman. Not only was it a question of competency but race and gender also posed a challenge. I walked into a meeting to pitch for funding after the meeting one of the male panellists said “What makes me special to think one day I can lead a bio-technology company without medical background and he doesn’t see me go far should try another sector”, but guess what I was part of the winners on that day secured a seed grant and procured our working equipment to build our business.
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?)
Sibongile Mongadi redirected all of her company’s focus to manufacture more than 200, 3D printed personal protective-masks and shield for free donation to help in fight against the COVID-19crisis. And also worked with 3 other innovators to develop Contactless Thermometer sensor and hands- free sanitizer that was used in one of the school in Midrand.
And we introduced use of digital communications modernizes the healthcare experience by enabling access to healthcare services remotely, whether it be a patient contacting a clinician in a different area or multiple healthcare providers collaborating with one another from a distance.
How do you approach networking and building partnerships in your industry?
By defining exactly what I want out of a partnership and what I can bring to the table.
Do you have (or ever had) a mentor in your journey, and do you believe it helped (if yes, in what way)?
Yes I do have mentors, my journeying of having someone to guide and support me started at high school by one of my role-model whom till to-date she is one of my mentor Mrs Dumazile Ngwenya Matsheke although she was two grades apart from, she played a huge role in my life being whom made me to love Science and Mathematics and taught me to work hard, since she used to be one of the Top Achievers at school. Mrs Matsheke will assist me with transportation money when my finances were down, to attend entrepreneurship workshops and pitching competitions.
And today I am privileged to be mentored by the likes of Mrs Anno-Frempong, Mrs Matsheke, Mrs Ngidi & Mrs Morobi they all inspire me to turn dreams into reality. They taught me to work hard, fueled by passion and to dream big. Always need to trust the process and never forget why I started.
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?
Covid-19 has indeed resulted in further job scarcity in South Africa, which is hard and scary reality for us all. How-ever this also means that there is a heightened need for entrepreneurship it means start your own business and challenge the status quo.
Make the formation of entrepreneurial activity a government priority. The formulation of effective policy for entrepreneurial ecosystems requires the active involvement of Government Ministers working with senior public servants who act as ‘institutional entrepreneurs’ to shape and empower policies and programs.
They must develop policy that addresses the needs of both the business and its management team recognize that small business policy is ‘transactional’ while entrepreneurship policy is ‘relational’ in nature.
In your opinion, what are the secrets to being a successful entrepreneur?
know your market, meaning research the market extensively and provide customers with good service.
Don’t take ‘No” for an answer.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
Always be on the lookout for opportunities to connect and network and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
Start where you are with what you have.