Pontsho Manzi shares how she never looked back from being her own boss since she was 24 years old as well as how she empowers young women through one of her social businesses
- You started your first business, as a recruiter when you were 24-years-old what inspired you to be a business woman?
I always knew that my journey was bigger than a 9 – 5 job working for someone else. I went into recruiting as it was a natural progression from my HR degree training and what I had been doing until then. I only needed to face the challenge of learning to run a business without having to learn the HR industry and skills required as well.
- What were some of the highlights and challenges you faced in the first stages of your business?
I made a lot of money in the first year and this framed my expectations of what a business can give you. The biggest challenge was getting big corporates to entrust their recruitment to a small black female-owned recruitment firm. Immediate success is also a challenge because you don’t immediately realise the value of deliberate slow growth with hard work that builds character in a business person.
- You launched FabImage in 2012, why did you branch into the image consulting services?
In my recruitment and training business I realised that companies and individuals do not appreciate the value of being well-presented sartorially as well as professionally. There was a gap as companies got well-qualified candidates and employees who do not do well in presenting the appropriate company image. Image consulting is such an important industry that is yet to be fully exploited by South Africans. First world countries like USA and most of Europe realise and harness its power while the rest of the world struggle to see its absolute significance and the huge advantage it gives a person. Our business has managed to combine training, recruitment and image management into a unique and compelling value proposition that presents a much more complete outcome for individuals and corporates.
- What does your company entail and what sets you apart from other image consulting firms?
Firstly, we must realise that image consulting is not just personal shopping or fashion buying. Image management is the complete package that involves colour analysis, wardrobe planning, make-up application, body shape analysis and, yes, clothes. FabImage offers corporates and individuals solutions that allow them to present the best of themselves. Our individual clients have gone on to climb the corporate ladder or get taken seriously in business because of our services and the confidence an image consultant gives you through the services they render.
- You also started a magazine, Fabulous Woman as well as a publishing company, Bonisa Media in 2012, why did you branch into the media space?
It was a dream from the age of 15 and client feedback. As an HR, training and Image Consulting company, we interacted with many women with motivational needs and needed inspiration on a more regular basis. Fabulous Woman was an extension of the creation of Diary for Fabulous Woman. Unfortunately, in South Africa the media industry is monopolised by a few companies which makes it difficult for start-ups in the media industry to get ahead. Instead of butting my head trying to sell my vision, I decided to create my own publishing company to publish and distribute my work as well as that of other people starting out. Media remains untransformed and concentrated in the hands of the few. This has to change and I believe it can only be done by people challenging the status quo and building their own media houses.
- What inspired you to write the book, Sisterhood Charter and do you plan on writing more?
In many interactions with women, I quickly realised that women are sometimes their worst enemies both in corporate companies and in business. With the lack of unity and backstabbing that goes on, men do not even have to lift a finger in stalling our progress. I wrote the book to engender a spirit of sisterhood amongst women and get women to support and encourage one another. There will be more books in future but the sisterhood issue is quite huge and dialogues need to continue with programmes to eradicate self-defeating tendencies that women engaging in.
- What are some of the hurdles and achievements you experienced as a media entrepreneur?
Latest achievement to date for Bonisa Media was winning the Young Entrepreneur and Play Your Part awards at the SA Premier Business Awards in 2014 for outstanding work in empowering women and girls. The biggest challenge was to bootstrap my business as the complexity and delicateness of the vision cannot be easily translated into a PowerPoint presentation or business plan. Finance is always a challenge. It is a pity that some of the hurdles are put by other black people working for big media houses. Bonisa Media publishes Fabulous Woman magazine, Sisterhood Charter book and the Journal and Diary for Fabulous You whose purposes would have possibly been perverted if done through bigger media houses intent on just making profit.
- Tell us about your NGO, The Fabulous Girls Foundation, what does it entail?
The Fabulous Girls Foundation is about raising confident, educated and well groomed young women. We go to schools and offer pro bono workshops to young women on leadership, entrepreneurship, career guidance, math and science education and image management, as well as pair these girls with mentors in their chosen fields of study. We also find bursaries for deserving girls to further their studies in tertiary institutions. There are schools we have adopted for continual interaction and mentoring of girls right into their working careers.
- You are also a professional corporate speaker, how did that come about and who are some of your clients?
It was a natural progression from my HR and training background. My clients include some of the blue chip companies in the financial services, telecommunications and manufacturing sectors. I also work with government and SOEs.
- How do you balance your business with your family?
I don’t believe in balance but being present in the moment whatever I’m doing. With difficulty, especially with social media thrown into the mix I might have knocked off from work but I have social media to update for my followers and to also keep abreast with what is happening locally and abroad. To make it up to my family, I take regular breaks away on family trips to distress and reconnect away from work.
- What is your advice to young people who want to start and run successful businesses?
It is a decision that must be taken soberly and not as a fad because someone else is doing it. They also have to understand the kind of brand they want to create and also know that it is a long and sometimes lonely journey. Short cuts are dangerous as people want overnight success and sometimes resort to bribery, fraud or selling their bodies and souls to get ahead. It is not worth it in the long run. They must learn that integrity always wins the day in any kind of business and makes you stand out amongst other businesses who burn out along the way.
Connect with Pontsho on: