Running a business, and a family, is a daunting task but these successful women have discovered the secret.
They say that being a mother is one of the toughest jobs, and if that is true then how do “mompreneurs” look after family and build a successful business? We take a look at eight women entrepreneurs have built highly successful and innovative businesses – while still being a mom. They share there tips and learnings on how they juggle both work and family.
1. Amy Kleinhans-Curd
Mother of four, famous Miss South Africa winner Amy Kleinhans-Curd knew she was going to be an entrepreneur at age 11. Today, she’s better known for her role as co-founder and director of the PLP Group, as well as her involvement in numerous education-based businesses and organisations.
“We were four girls in the family, and so they couldn’t buy us four of everything,” Kleinhans-Curd describes. “My mother was also very entrepreneurial. She used to sell crafts at markets on the weekends. I learnt at an early age to work for what I wanted, and to create my own destiny.”
What most people don’t know about Kleinhans-Curd is that she has been in business for more than 23 years, “I still often feel like the smallest, the least experienced and the least knowledgeable. From the outside, the appearance of success can be deceptive, but not everyone who appears successful feels like they’ve ‘arrived’. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing — it keeps me humble and it keeps me striving to know more.”
Being a mother of four means that juggling work and family can be a difficult balancing act, but Kleinhans-Curd takes it all in her stride. “I believe that running a successful business and a successful family life does not need to be mutually exclusive. I have a passion to lead by example for my children and show them it’s possible to do both.
Because of this outlook my children have a very good understanding of the demands of the business world and they adapt exceptionally well to the frequent changes in our routine and our lifestyle accommodates for it. So in our family we know nothing different. We all support and understand each other regardless of the demand on our lives. And I’m happy to say so far so good.”
Related: 10 Truly inspirational South African entrepreneurs
2. Margaret Hirsch
- Entrepreneur: Margaret Hirsch
- Company: Hirsch group
- Family: Husband and two children
Margaret Hirsh is a business powerhouse and currently the Chief Operations Officer of the Hirsch Group. But her journey wasn’t an easy one; at the age of ten her family found themselves in dire straits upon the death of her father. To bring a little money into the family, Hirsh washed hair in a salon. It was a tough time and Hirsh has worked hard ever since to ensure that her family never experienced that level of poverty again.
Years later, Hirsh found herself in a similar circumstance, when both she and her husband lost their jobs. At that time they had two children to support and only R900 to live on. Together they decided to start their own business - a home appliance repair and maintenance shop. As they grew the business, Hirsh filled every position: From selling goods, to invoicing, demonstrating new products on the shop floors, delivering goods to customers, installing new equipment in customers’ homes, and overseeing the day to day business.
35 years later the business has expanded across the country and is valued at over a billion rand.
Hirsh’s advice for woman entrepreneurs“Look after your health. Your wealth is no good if you are not healthy. You can have anything you want in life if you are willing to pay the price. If you can't afford it, don't have it.”
Hirsh reveals that her children spent a lot of time in the shop from an early age. “It’s amazing how much they absorbed by being around,” says Hirsh. Today, both children have worked their way up in the family business.
“If women take control and make sure that their husbands and children are healthy, wealthy and wise then we’ll have strong, closely knit families and a strong community which will result in a better future for the country,” Hirsh believes.
3. Farah Fortune
- Entrepreneur: Farah Fortune
- Company: African Star Communications
- Family: One child
Farah Fortune resigned from her previous position and with the meagre money from her last pay check started her business from her bedroom floor. Fortune soon found herself sharing two-minute noodles with her daughter as the money began to run out. Realising that she didn’t have enough money to even feed her own child, Fortune had to momentarily shelve her dream and went to work for a PR company. She hated every minute of it so when her CC registration finally come through, she walked out the door.
Today, African Star Communications represents high-profile rappers such as K.O and Solo, and stand-up comedians Loyiso Gola and Jason Goliath. What made Fortune different from other PR firms is she took on lots of small clients who had the potential to become famous. She could charge them less and help them to become big stars.
Fortune revealed: “My daughter keeps me motivated; she needs clothes on her back and food in her stomach. That is enough of a motivator for any parent. Even if this didn’t work for me, I’d scrub toilets to make sure she had what she needed. I’m not scared of hard work at all. I will never see my child suffer.”
Balancing work and home isn’t easy at all. It’s a demanding career and I am very lucky to have an amazing support system. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything as my daughter is my priority and when there are school plays and such I make sure I’m there.
4. Lize Fouche
- Entrepreneur: Lize Fouche
- Company: Number 1 Foods
- Family: Husband and two children
Lize Fouche didn’t consider her muesli as a viable entrepreneurial idea until her baby girl was born and she needed to bring in extra income. As her daughter grew, it became harder to care for her and watch over muesli roasting in an oven: “As orders grew we took our last few thousand rand and tried to build a steel roasting drum. It didn’t work and was a big blow, but instead of giving up I approached a local engineer to help design a muesli roaster.”
“We had inadvertently created a muesli pop that would later become a popular product in our range. With a few tries we then mastered roasting muesli in the bigger roaster.” Fouche’s Nutri-start product is now available in Pick n Pays around the country.
“We found the buyer really supportive of our business, not like the horror stories you hear of large retailers steam-rolling small businesses. The negotiations to supply Pick n Pay would significantly up our production every month.”
Despite Fouche’s success, starting up a business was challenging. Fouche revealed: “As a mother entering the business world, I had to really persevere when it came to pitching my product to various businesses. It took time convincing my family that this was the right thing to do. With a six-month-old and two-year-old, I had to juggle motherhood and business, sometimes taking my children with me to business meetings because I didn’t have a babysitter.”
Related: 5 Essential traits of the entrepreneurial business woman
5. Nicole Stephens
- Entrepreneur: Nicole Stephens
- Company: The Recruitment Specialists
- Family: Husband and two children
Nicole Stephens’s business consists of four women who all operate on flexitime. The Recruitment Specialists continues to incorporate untraditional methods by not having a head office or basic salary’s and with low targets and commission ranges from 50 to 60%. Despite a lack of traditional systems, The Recruitment Specialists has been profitable from day one.
“An article by Richard Branson explaining that time is the new money really resonated with me,” Stephens explains. “There are many talented women who are forced to choose between family responsibilities and having a fulfilling career because existing business formats can’t accommodate their needs. And it’s not just mothers; people whose peak performance times happen outside of the nine to five, or those with long commutes.
“I was pregnant with my first child when we founded TRS and it was with the intention to create a business that provided us founders and employees with freedom and flexibility.”
Stephens explains that her team stays in contact by using Skype, WhatsApp, cell phones, and email. She believes this system works for them because all of their roles are clearly defined. She does the finances, negotiations for contracts and puts out fires, and her fellow Director of The Recruitment Specialists Sally Kuschke does the marketing and advertising, and placements are individual projects that their agents work on from start to finish. If anyone has a problem, they know exactly who to contact.
"As for the flexi-time, we’re fortunate that there’s no problem that can’t wait an hour, and if it really can’t wait we can make a plan to be available. It’s also important not to try juggle work and life because one of the two will come off short,” believes Stephens.
"In the day I get three hours of work time while my youngest sleeps and the other is at school, and then I work in the evening when they’re asleep. “
6. Angel Jones
- Entrepreneur: Angel Jones
- Company: Homecoming Revolution
- Family: Husband and two children
In 2003 Jones launched her business Homecoming Revolution, “as a website to tell the stories of people who has come home – the good bits and the bad bits”. The message was, “You’re not a failure if you come back; you’re a pioneer, entrepreneur and revolutionary, and look at all these amazing things that are possible. Don’t wait till it gets better, come home and make it better.”
Angel Jones believes: “There was this perception that if you came home you were a failure. But actually, there was so much possibility and so much to do. It felt so much more vibrant and alive. And as glamorous as my advertising career was, it felt far more exciting being back.”
In 2011 Jones managed to make Homecoming Revolution a profitable business and now focuses all her time on it. Jones reveals: “I wondered when we turned into a business whether we’d lose any credibility, but in fact we’ve gained it; we’re now sitting at the high table with all the big businesses who are growing across the continent and they really do need the talent so we’re playing a vital role in bringing people home and we’re making good money.”
As a mother of two Jones works hard to keep her family happy and spends as much time with them as she can. Jones is a great role model for her children showing them how to go after their dreams and do something every day that they love.
Jones believes that: “The best way to make your children happy is to be a happy parent.” This is what she uses to keep her work and home balance in check. Whenever she’s around her children she makes sure to be positive and happy with them, giving them a happy positive outlook on life.
7. Vanessa Gounden
- Entrepreneur: Vanessa Gounden
- Company: HolGoun Investment Holdings
- Family: Husband and two children
In 2003 Vanessa Gouden founded HolGoun Investment Holdings with her husband.
HolGoun’s successful business approach is that it only invests in business and projects that the company can directly grow and develop. This business approach has assisted HolGoun is acquiring a strong and diverse portfolio of investments in several sectors including mining, financial services, healthcare, property, media and entertainment, fashion, security, and film production.
"I worked from home, with my first office located in a bedroom and consisting of a computer and a desk," revealed Gouden. Despite her humble beginnings, HolGoun is valued at more than R2.9 billion and Gouden enjoys her time creating her own fashion label called Vanessa G, which is part of HolGoun Investment Holdings.
Her daughter models for her fashion brand and her son is a musician and producer and runs Goliath, a boutique record label that supports and promotes local talent. Goliath Studios offers world-class audio recording facilities, which is fully equipped for corporate and commercial recordings.
“My husband and I have been together since high school,” says Gouden. “We are cut from the same cloth with the same political, social and religious inclinations. The family value system that was inculcated in us as we were growing up led us to manage political, family and business responsibilities without compromising one for the other.”
Related: Funding for women entrepreneurs
8. Nkhensani Nkosi
- Entrepreneur: Nkhensani Nkosi
- Company: Stoned Cherrie
- Family: Husband and four children
Nkhensani Nkosi is the designer and founder behind the uniquely South African brand, Stoned Cherrie. Since she launched her business in 2000, Nkosi has showcased her range at New York Fashion Week. Recently, Stoned Cherrie introduced the beautiful talents from New York-based South African designer Darryl Jagga.
Stoned Cherrie continues to grow and has recently expanded into eyewear – a firm favourite of several African and international icons, including South Africa’s pop singer, Lira. The fashion enterprise has started to collect other ambitious fashion designers, who have a unique voice and interesting point of view.
“When I get home every day I kick off my shoes and get really comfortable. Then I put on my multitude of ears to listen attentively to all the voices of my family competing for No 1 spot, trying to tell me stories about school and who said what, while brokering sibling peace… the list is endless.”
“The secret to being a successful businesswoman is about creating balance in life, taking care of your needs, spiritually, emotionally and physically as well as having a positive outlook,” believes Nkosi.
Nkosi spends most of her free time sitting with her children. She believes they make her appreciate being alive. “I also love family holidays. We recently went scuba diving and it was one of the best experiences of my life.”