Promoting Inclusion in the Rainbow Nation

| By Orain Edwards

Promoting Inclusion in the Rainbow Nation; South African Business Owner Reflects on Starting Her Own Business, Business to Business Connections, and the Importance of Perseverance!

Affectionately called the “Rainbow Nation,” one could say that South Africa represents the epitome of the modern day struggle for diversity and inclusion, including the fight for LGBT equality. As Africa’s second largest economy, today, South Africa remains one of the continent’s major economic powerhouses and the only country in Africa to decriminalize discrimination based on sexual orientation through its new Constitution in 1996. 
 
NGLCC, in collaboration with local LGBT organization the Other Foundation, recently kicked off the South African LGBTI Business Network (SALGBTIBN) in Cape Town on June 15, 2016, during the 33rd IGLTA Global Convention. The South African LGBTI Business Network is the fifth LGBT business network under NGLCC’s public-private partnership with USAID and follows a successful in-country assessment and months of intensive consultation between NGLCC and local stakeholders. Throughout the conference, NGLCC convened LGBT and allied businesses for educational sessions and roundtable discussions on business development, supplier diversity, and the realities for the South African LGBT business community.
 
During both the in-country assessment and kick-off event, team NGLCC Global had the opportunity to meet with many South African business owners, including Liezl Van Der Westhuizen, president and founder of Creatividad Consulting (CC), a consulting firm that offers solutions and services to various organizations and companies. Creatividad Consulting is the first NGLCC International Registered Supplier from South Africa, and Liezl also serves on the steering committee for the South African LGBTI Business Network.
 
Here is my candid interview with Liezl as she shares her experience as a lesbian business owner in South Africa.
 
Let’s start from the beginning: Where did your business’s funding come from and how did you go about obtaining initial capital? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
 
I did not secure any funding or capital to start my business, as I’ve started with no additional overheads. I did however start with two solid contracts in place that replaced my basic salary from being in full time employment. Based on these two contracts as a security net, I’ve increased the number of clients on a project basis.  
 
One of these contracts developed into the opportunity I was offered to purchase the training site rights within my province of the training company I now run in conjunction with my consulting business. 
 
How do you build a successful customer base?
 
Personal contact and face-to-face meetings seems to work in most cases to identify new clients. Additionally, with technology these days it is easy to get to know potential clients and customers through their website or social media profiles. Finally, open and honest communication forms the foundation of customer relations. If I cannot offer the client a specific service or product, I will refer them to somebody in my network. This will many times result in them either coming back to me or refer somebody back to me.
 
What motivates you?
 
Satisfied customers.  Whenever I’ve tried a new approach or product and it succeeds it motivates me to keep on being innovative. It is very satisfying to work hard and try all possible avenues on a new product or service and to be successful in the delivery. The freedom to manage my own diary is another very effective motivation factor.   
 
What is your greatest fear?
 
My greatest fear is that of failure. Not being able to provide the level of service required by my clients. My approach to any fear is to pro-actively be as prepared as possible, to assess my own abilities and limitations and to make the best decision on who should conduct the training. If I feel confident enough to provide the service, I will do it; if I feel uncomfortable in any aspect, I will offer a contract to one of my SME specialist with whom I have a MOU.
 
How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
 
I don’t really give up on an idea if I believe in the value of it. I might however try new approaches or different focuses of the idea to try and figure out if the same idea can be effective if applied differently. Some ideas, however, do not end up being a reality at the moment I want it to—I never quit on any idea!
 
To what do you most attribute your success, and what would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
 
I believe my curiosity about “what else is possible”, perseverance and the ability to build networks contributes largely to my success.  The top three skills needed are: Networking, Networking, Networking! 
 
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
 
I tried to do everything myself. I’ve learned that you are your biggest asset when you are an entrepreneur.  It is therefore important to ensure that you stay healthy, balanced and supported.
 
How do the social, economic, environmental, technological, legal and political environments impact SMEs?
 
The South African economy is currently of great concern to many locally owned businesses. Within our country, funding is limited for skills development and private companies tend to cut budgets on training when the economy is not strong.  This results in periods where training contracts are very limited.
 
My approach within the business sector however is one of professionalism and confidence. These are the principles I build my business on and I believe it should be the principles any business is built on – no matter any other realities.
 
Do you plan to compete in the global market place? If yes, how? If no, why not?
 
Most definitely! On the one hand through blended learning options to enroll online for trainings I offer. On the other hand, I would like to build a bridge between South African NGOs / NPOs / FBOs and smaller organizations and international companies for mutual beneficial purposes. 
 
Where you see yourself and your business in 10 years? 20 years?
 
I am working towards establishing a training center where all my trainings can be centralized.  This will offer the option to have at least 1 training topic scheduled for each day of the week at my own training venue and not to be dependent on larger contracts from clients

Learn more about International Registered Supplier Creatividad Consulting

Learn more about NGLCC Global’s affiliate for South Africa, the Other Foundation.