‘Be modest, willing and able to accept that your initial presumptions concerning a market or business idea may be wrong, and alter your strategy accordingly.’
As a little girl, Noli always knew that she wanted to run her own company, preferably within the production of household goods (‘I know, I was a boring eight-year-old’ she laughs). The challenge of producing a tangible product that someone was willing to pay for simply fascinated her. Later on, she developed an interest around ingredients found in hair- and body-care products. With an MSc in economics and business admin and experience in management consulting, retail marketing and investment banking, Noli’s interests and skills merged and she founded Southern Africa Cosmetic Suppliers (SACS). Today, SACS produces plant-based care products with wonderful, locally sourced and indigenous ingredients. They try to use minimal labelling and maximum recyclable packaging, while keeping it aesthetically pleasing. They sell through online store Sa-cs.co.za.
Supply-chain effectiveness, within a production lifecycle, involves suppliers’ and partners’ cooperation and is paramount when manufacturing goods. This is an aspect that I find particularly challenging in South Africa, simply due to local business cultures and practices. In my experience, overcoming this requires good business-partner and supplier relations, as this is the underlying factor behind their willingness to be effective, which in turn makes our own production cycle smoother and more efficient.
On the misconceptions of entrepreneurship:
That it’s glamorous. It is anything but. Life as an entrepreneur requires one to be willing and able to do a lot of work that is not fun. Being the sole founder of a concept (such as myself) means if one doesn’t actually do the work, nothing gets done. Progression comes from your own efforts and nothing moves forward if you sit still.
On lessons learned:
I’ve learned that I have a tendency to run at full throttle in the beginning of a process (which kicks things off to a great start!) but I quickly lose steam if I do not have people around me to help stimulate my work effort. I therefore try to involve business partners in certain processes where I have lots to gain from their insights, competencies and ideas.
On what women entrepreneurs need more of in SA:
I would say it’s vice versa! ‘Ask not what SA can do for you, but what you can do for SA.’ Our country simply needs more female entrepreneurs! South Africa has a strong patriarchal culture and I understand that this tends to be daunting when starting off as a female entrepreneur, but women must dare to stand up to this culture and recognise that they are just as capable as men in creating successful endeavours.
On being inspired:
During high school, I remember struggling and crying over calculus homework (laughs) and my father telling me that calculus was not supposed to be understood by geniuses. It was a tool meant to be understood and used by the average Joe. That was one of my light-bulb moments where I understood that 99% of achievements are attainable by the average person, if we only decide to persevere and be diligent in our efforts.
On advice for other entrepreneurs:
I have been surprised by the lack of support and the amount of doubtful language I have had to endure while starting out. Very few people are supportive of one starting off as an entrepreneur (I have also heard this from other fellow startups). Choose who you confide in very carefully and recognise the difference between constructive criticism and destructive, disheartening talk. Believe in your idea and investigate the practical means of executing it. Do more, talk less.