5 Inspiring Women to Look Up to This Women’s Day!

Women's Month

It’s Women’s Day tomorrow, and we’re not just excited because we get the day off! No, we’re excited because Women’s Day is the perfect time to celebrate the power of women and of course, the incredible women who fought for the women of South Africa to enjoy equal rights. So, to get you in the celebratory mood we’ve put together a little something on five super inspiring local women that are doing big things in their chosen industries and their communities. We asked five inspiring South African women to share their stories with us and they opened up about the challenges of starting a new business, being a woman in the business world, and of course, enjoying the fruits of their labour.

1. Ingrid La Grange: ” Do not despise small beginnings.”

As the co-founder and developer of Touwsberg Private Game and Nature Reserve, Ingrid la Grange, is making some serious waves in the travel and property sector in South Africa. Ingrid worked tirelessly alongside her husband to turn what was originally a sheep farm into a nature reserve where nature lovers, together with wildlife could roam freely. After a rather long journey the pair found that all their hard work paid off and today they run their own little paradise in the Karoo; “at long last we found that the saying; “if you can dream it you can do it” definitely applied,” said Ingrid.

Ingrid La Grange, Touwsberg Private Game and Nature Reserve.

WS: What were your toughest challenges starting out?

ILG: Establishing a nature reserve sometimes requires a myriad of bureaucratic procedures that have to be dealt with as well as harnessing the expertise of a vast amount of people to help you achieve what sometimes felt like an impossibility.

WS: If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be?

ILG: An excellent piece of advice I can think of straight away is that although most businesses experience all seasons; one should not give up when winter strikes, summer is sure to be on its way. The 1000 day rule is very true, should you venture on your own, it might take a while before you are established and earning the income you perhaps had when you left your previous job. Also, do not underestimate the power of thorough planning. Hindsight has taught us that to build a business from the ground up requires much scientific thinking as well as the correct psychological frame of mind with regard to patience and perseverance.

WS: Do you think female entrepreneurs face a unique set of challenges when starting a business?

ILG: The most powerful enemy we as women face is the lack of faith in our own ability as a result of ongoing society perception; we certainly underestimate our own strength, especially ladies who perhaps live in more conservative communities where female roles are underplayed. Every woman is unique in her own right and with her own set of skills and talents which have to be unearthed and harnessed. You are the only key in cultivating your potential, unfortunately, no one else can help you, and you have to start believing in your own success.

The second hurdle women have to conquer is thinking that they need a vast amount of money when starting a business. Although having strong capital helps, one should work with the physical and human resources at your disposal like tangible assets, aptitude, passion and qualifications. If you can bring these resources together, live your dream, believe in yourself and work with unstoppable passion, you are in business. Remember that every first business starts small, do not despise small beginnings.

(Psst! We also wrote a review on the beautiful Touwsberg Private Game and Nature Reserve – read it here!)

2.  Janine Janse van Rensburg: “It was and will always be hard work!”

As the founder and owner of Poise Brands (the sole distributor of Juliette Armand, Mio and Mama Mio Skincare in South and sub-Saharan Africa) Janine Janse van Rensburg, is helping South African women celebrate both their inner and outer beauty. Janine believes that “entrepreneurship is something that is in your heart and in your gut” and she always knew that she was going to run her own business. Here’s how she turned a great opportunity into a thriving business.

Janine Janse van Rensburg Poise Brands

WS: What were your toughest challenges starting out?

JJvR: Wow, there were quite a few actually. Barring the obvious business challenges of staying cash positive, building scale, being a jack of all trades and growing your business, some of the toughest personal challenges were, especially as at the time I started Poise I was single, carrying the responsibility of running your own business on your own, learning how to switch off after hours, separating yourself from the business. It was and will always be hard work, but it is so worth it!

WS: If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be?

JJvR: Don’t get so stuck in the daily operations of the business that you don’t have the capacity to dream the future of your company.

WS: What has been the most rewarding thing about building your business?

JJvR: Again, there is quite a long list but if I could single out two points, the one would be seeing people grow in both their personal and professional capacities, and secondly for me to see how the company has grown from where I started in my spare bedroom 8 years ago.

3. Ralene van der Merwe: “Get up and do the unthinkable!”

Ralene van der Merwe is the co-founder and owner of Pecanwood Manor in Upington. Nestled on the banks of the Orange River, this quaint little hideaway is the perfect place to get away from it all! Ralene was brought up in a very entrepreneurial family and it didn’t take long for her entrepreneurial qualities to shine through. “New business ventures are my food and adds zest to my life!” explains Ralene.

Ralene van der Merwe, Pecanwood Manor.

WS: What were your toughest challenges starting out?

RvdM: I think establishing yourself in the market is always a challenge, delivering excellent service time after time and setting a blueprint in guests minds and drawing customers back to you without even a second thought in their mind.

WS: If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be?

RvdM: Do not limit yourself with the obvious things like: no money, legislation and dream killers in your life… think out of the box, rethink, and incorporate a creative person to brainstorm with you and get up and do the unthinkable!

WS: Do you think female entrepreneurs face a unique set of challenges when starting a business?

RvdM: They definitely do, since most of them are moms and that on its own sets a few very important challenges. Juggling everything to make the most important things count (for me it’s always the children and household) and still be successful as an entrepreneur.

Ralene van der Merwe, Pecanwood Manor.
Pecanwood Manor, Upington.

WS: What has been the most rewarding thing about building your business?

RvdM: The most rewarding thing for me in any business venture is the fact that I create something out of nothing, renovating old lifeless homes into something spectacular and long-lasting, establishing a new brand and culture of doing things, I love it!

4. Denise Koortzen: “Grab the opportunities that are out there and make it work!”

At just 29 years of age, Denise Koortzen, is already a travel mogul in her own right! She is the co-founder and developer of Kgalagadi Lodge, a travelers haven, where modern meets wilderness, a mere five kilometres from the popular Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. When deciding to start her own business, Denise took her inspiration from her mother; “For me it was the combination of my strong will and inspiration from my mother. I grew up in a household where my mom had her own business and she is quite an inspiring business woman herself.” Denise and her husband, SJ Koortzen, spotted a gap in the market when they realised that Kgalagadi Transfornteir Park was always full and people where constantly struggling to get accommodation near the park. In 2012 their dream to open a nature-friendly yet contemporary lodge, near the Twee Rivieren gate, was realised when Kgalagadi Lodge opened its doors.

Denise Koortzen, Kgalagadi Lodge.

WS: What were your toughest challenges starting out?

DK: In December 2011, my husband and I went on holiday to Henties Bay in Namibia and after only being there for a few days we got into a big car accident, where I got hurt badly. I had to be airlifted to Windhoek hospital to get stabilised and from there they airlifted me to Somerset West Hospital. My left foot and right leg were the worst and the doctors wanted to amputate the right foot. I underwent various major surgeries but with a lot of faith, prayer and the excellent work of the doctors they manage to save my foot and leg. I was in hospital for three months, in that time my husband was next to my bed every single day while organising and putting things in place for the lodge. I was released from hospital in March 2012 and immediately had to move on-site to start helping out with the lodge, while I was still in a wheelchair, which was a real difficulty to be able to help and manage everything that had to happen.

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We also had some tough times with the planning of the lodge and it felt like it was taking forever to sort out all of the logistics such as EIA, rezoning, sub-division of the property and the list goes on.

WS: If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be?

DK: According to a research, fear of failure is the main concern in women starting a new business.
I thought that I did my research, knew my target audience, and did all the business planning that needed to be done. One piece of advice without a doubt is definitely time management. You get sucked into being a business woman, wanting your idea or business to work and that it takes all your attention. You neglect your friends and family, and it is sad to admit but we definitely lost a few friends along the way because it was all work and no play – all the time! We still work really hard but I try to balance work and social more these days. I realised how important friends and family are, they are definitely the support system you need to help cope with all the stress.

WS: Do you think female entrepreneurs face a unique set of challenges when starting a business?

DK: I think a lot has changed and that businesses are much more open minded when it comes to doing business with a woman these days, what still makes it difficult is the way we were raised and the way that communities and cultures work. I think there are still a general feeling amongst a lot of cultures and communities, that women are supposed to stay at home and raise the kids. All you need to do is to grab the opportunities that are out there and make it work, no matter wat obstacles are thrown your way.

WS: What has been the most rewarding thing about building your business?

DK: The most rewarding thing is seeing how our business is growing every year, watching the various phases that we go through and to see the results of all the hard work. The compliments we receive from guests – that is definitely one of the biggest driving forces and most rewarding feelings and of course, flexibility and freedom of choice.

(Psst! We also wrote a review on the incredible Kgalagadi Lodge – read it here!)

5. Jo-Ann Janse van Rensburg: “Don’t be so scared to take a chance!”

At just 29 years of age, Jo-Ann Janse van Rensburg is the Founder and Director of Cherry-Pick PR, the very first Public Relations agency in Upington! After moving to Upington with her husband in 2015, Jo-Ann realised that she would have to create her own work opportunities in a place where PR was still very unheard of. Now, just a year later Cherry-Pick PR manages six amazing clients. Jo-Ann found success in being selective in her choice of clients, carefully crafting the message and, in turn, choosing the right-fit media to which the message is delivered. “I strive to bring a personal approach to the work that I do for my clients which is evident in my boutique, cherry-pick offering,” says Jo-Ann.

Jo-Ann Janse van Rensburg

WS: What were your toughest challenges starting out?

JAJvR: PR is, unfortunately, today still an industry that people are not familiar with. I get asked a lot about what I do and when I start explaining I can see that they don’t really understand. So trying to convince a new client to trust in a service that they have never heard of – or don’t understand – is definitely a challenge.

WS: If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be?

JAJvR: Don’t be so scared to take a chance. If you know you have the skills and you’re dedicated, go for it! If it is your own business, you are guaranteed to go the extra mile to make a success of it so it will work!

WS: Do you think female entrepreneurs face a unique set of challenges when starting a business?

JAJvR: Most definitely. Being a young female business woman trying to convince someone who is very set in traditional ways of doing business is a big challenge, however, with every single pitch I learn from and walk out stronger.

WS: What has been the most rewarding thing about building your business?

Happy clients! When you start off with a client that is not a 100 percent convinced that PR is the way to go and after three months, believe in PR and the power of what it can achieve. Signing a client for three months and turning it into a year contract because of excellent results. And, of course, receiving phone calls from clients to say that they have received feedback or sold products from editorial coverage that has appeared on their brand.

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