1. Tell us about yourself.
I was born in 1962 to wonderful parents of Lebanese descent. I was one of four sisters, and our upbringing was a humble one. My late dad was a strong charismatic man and entrepreneur and my mom, the heart of the home and nurturer. Both my parents had a profound influence on me growing up. I remember always wanting to take care of the neighbourhood, counseling the children, and trading in my “shop” at the tender age of 9. I was always a curious and adventurous child with an enquiring mind and a love for music.
This is part of my DNA and has not changed since. I was educated at Assumption Convent with the great ambition of studying further and becoming independent. Then I fell in love, married the love of my life, and was blessed with two beautiful children, a son, and a daughter. I was young and we were struggling and all I wanted was to do more for my family and to ensure a better life for my children and their future. This was the driving force for me and lead me to starting my own business in 1982 after a short time in the recruitment industry. I loved the hunter-farmer rush of success but even more so, the ability to change people’s lives positively. I have been an entrepreneur ever since.
2. What do you do?
I advocate for transformation, diversity, and inclusion, as well as for growing and liberating human potential.
I am the Founder and CEO of KLM Empowered Human Solutions Specialists (Pty) Ltd, established in 2005, and the Knowledge X Change Holdings as well as Espoir Foundation. Before that, it was KLM & Associates. I was born an entrepreneur and am now a business leader and driver of positive change through adult education.
My career is purpose-driven education with the aim of changing the mindset and building on the values of our young society. I strive to break down the barriers to access for youth who are differently-abled and bringing currency and relevancy into education that is aligned to local and global business trends and benchmarks.
Together with my phenomenal team, we are the architects of positive change and we aim to create a flourishing environment for young minds to excel in this digital age.
3. How long have you been in the industry?
I started my career in recruitment in 1982 and transformed KLM & Associates recruitment specialists into an empowering Skills Development and Project Management company in 2005. I have been in business for 39 years.
4. Has your work always been your passion. Tell us why?
My work is empowering, and it empowers others. The environment that I have created allows for gender equality and diversity but more so, it allows others to flourish both within the business or as learners within our programmes.
I was born to nurture and have been dubbed the ‘CEO of Hearts’. There is no greater reward than equipping others with the knowledge and know-how to empower themselves. Every day we witness this transformation, a newfound confidence and a determination with a “can do attitude”. This is especially evident in our learners that have had to face many obstacles and barriers to access meaningful education and opportunities.
I absolutely love what I do and the results thereof.
5. Being a woman in industry, what does it take.
Firstly, my advice to all women irrespective of which industry they find themselves part of or driving, is to own your femininity, own your capability, own your role and be fearless and determined. It takes sacrifice.
You have to believe in yourself and not subject yourself to the judgment or opinions of others. You have to let go of the guilt. Do not overcompensate in the other roles that you fulfill as a mother, a wife, a daughter, sibling, or friend just because you are a career woman.
Love the fact that you can wear many hats, just because you can.
When a woman takes on a career or leads a business, it’s a decision that serves her family and society well. She must be supported and appreciated. Most importantly, she much be respected not because she is a woman, but because she has earned it.
6. What was the most difficult challenge in your career?
In 2011 our world crumbled. There was a shift in the SETA landscape and our primary SETA went into administration. Discretionary Grants were a primary resource to our business at the time as it served the greater population, especially in educating rural South Africa.
The impact was severe! I was at a crossroads to either liquidate the business, to try and obtain a loan, or alternatively apply for business rescue. I chose none of the latter. I made a decision to save the business and redirect our portfolio retaining the best team for the job even though the odds were against us at the time. It took relentless focus, fearlessness, huge sacrifice, and sheer belief that through God’s Divine intervention, I could navigate out of the storm. This we did and evolved into a company that has grown year on year.
In hindsight, the lessons learnt at the time served me and the company well when we found ourselves together with the rest of the globe in the midst of the COVID-19 storm. This is what I regard as the “Power of Positive Pressure”. We redirected the business in 36 days during Level 5 lockdown.
7. What advice do you have for other women in the industry?
As per my previous comments, be fearless, determined, focused and own your femininity – have Faith and believe that you can, and you will. Do not depend on another person or institution to be successful. The struggles you experience help you grow and the results will serve you well.
Don’t be indebted to people or to financial institutions, it will deplete you. Only borrow if you know you can repay the debt based on trading 3 x the value. Anything less will become an endless money pit. Don’t pay yourself first, but last. These are just a few of the lessons learnt and the reasons why many young upstarts fail. You have to be disciplined in all regards.
As Mandela said: ‘’ It seems impossible until it is done”
8. Plans for the future?
I want to continue growing the business and our exciting partnership with celebrity Chef and Businesswoman, Siba Mtongana, in the culinary space and drive the digital age learning of a curriculum that is future forward. This includes bringing innovation in education across all streams of education with a purpose of educating for change for a smarter future. I am committed to developing greatness.
On a personal note, I want to return to flight school to obtain my helicopter license and work on growing my personal lifestyle and wellness brand – a chapter I am excited to write and to live as I move closer to the big 60. I want to have more time to enjoy my grandchildren and my family and still impact the lives of many.