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Updated 30 Sep 2020

Ezlyn Barends learnt that to grow, you must let go

It didn’t take long for DreamGirls founder Ezlyn Barends to realise that if you want to grow your business, you must learn how to let go.

Monique Verduyn, 27 June 2016  Share  0 comments  Print

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Ezlyn Barends, a social entrepreneur and all-round high-achiever who is passionate about the empowerment of young women.

In 2012, she started the South African chapter of a US-based girl education and empowerment initiative, the DreamGirls International Outreach and Mentoring Programme.

It comprises a group of young female professionals, entrepreneurs and leaders who mentor and guide teenage girls in underprivileged communities to be successful in their pursuit of higher education, and life in general. 

Related: Ezlyn Barends Of DreamGirls On Igniting Passion


An organisation can’t grow on just one person’s skillset alone. It needs someone to manage teams and set a strategic course for growth.

Barends’ dream has always been to transfer skills and knowledge. “Enabling young women to become successful is important for South Africa’s future. Educated women are more likely to educate their children. There’s a link between educated girls and a country’s economic prosperity.” 

While running DreamGirls, Barends went on to complete an MBA from Henley Business School, a certificate in Impact Investing from Oxford University and a Bachelor in Business Administration from the IMM Graduate School of Marketing. But the hardworking entrepreneur also discovered that time and energy are precious resources.

Dream Girls SA-Logo

What happens when you let go

No one knows vision of an organisation better than its founder, but as DreamGirls grew, different skills and talents were required and it became impossible for Barends to fulfil every role. 

“I had to learn to let others take on the day-to-day management of tasks,” Barends says. “Letting go of control of something you’ve built is scary, but it pays to bring others on board while you focus on the things you do best.One of my key learnings was to let other people in the organisation take the lead.”

Teaming up with people who have the same values and vision as you do, letting go of the need to control – which is common among entrepreneurs, and empowering others in your organisation is key to success. That is how DreamGirls has grown and developed into a successful social business. 

“Appointing others in management roles introduced process and control layers that had been missing, and allowing people to take ownership has enabled us to operate three branches, in Gauteng, the Western Cape and Polokwane, with possibilities for growth now in our sights.” 

Related: For Chloé Consultants emotional intelligence is key to authentic leadership

Being able to rely on others to manage its daily operations means she has more time to focus on creating greater financial sustainability for the programme which, in conjunction with all the other core elements of the organisation, will foster continued growth. 

“Letting others run with their ideas gives me the opportunity to step outside of the business every now and then, which is also a healthy thing to do. It has brought fresh perspective. All I needed was the time to sit back and look at things a little differently.”


  • Have the confidence to hire talented people who complement you.
  • Give them the information, tools and support they need to be successful, and then get out of the way.
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Monique Verduyn

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