- Can you please tell us more about your business?
A. We are a family-owned import and export company called Milli Distributions and the sole distributors of the Glory pad in South Africa.
2. When, how and why did you start your business?
A. My current business, Milli Distributions, journey started a year and seven months ago. I was invited to a networking event AWIEF by the founder Irene Ochem in 2017 and met Hyasintha Ntuyeko from Tanzania, the founder, and designer of the Glory Pad – which has arrived in South Africa. Early in 2018, I flew to Johannesburg; my ticket sponsored by a woman dear to my heart Nita Luis, the woman who believed in me since we first met in 2015. However, she means so much more to me than just a mentor. She gave me all the support I needed to cement my partnership with Hyasintha and April. That same year, Milli Distributions was registered.
3. What is your role in the business?
A. I am the CEO.
4. Where did you study and what did you study?
A. I have only a high school degree that I completed as a private candidate at the age of 30 with three children, two of them twins and married due to facing much poverty most of my life. I left school at the young age of 15 and got my first job that same year Ironing for hotels at a laundromat. I remember the talk I had with myself that morning on my way to work, I promised myself that I will at least go back to school one day to finish my high school degree.
The reason I left school is I was just tired of going to bed hungry, attending school with broken school shoes, and to see how my mother had to go and ask people every day for something for us to eat, although she had good friends, I saw no dignity in it so finding a job was something I chose to do and it changed our lives for the better.
5. How did you finance your business?
A. Funding was a huge struggle for me I tried every government institution for assistance. One of them kept me in red tape for 7 long months and they were not sympathetic at all, they were arrogant and gave no support. I remember calling the “Minister of a small business then in 2018 and she told me that they are more selective of who they fund because they must answer to the government if the business fails and doesn’t repay the loan. I asked her why should I take the blame for businesses that failed, her response was “you must”. The journey was long and frustrating but I kept praying, believing and moving forward. Then ABSA bank saw the vision and did more than just fund my business they partnered, it was a journey worth it in the end.
6. Describe your average workday, if such a thing exists.
A. I work from home and have an office where we conduct our daily business. I start at 8 am in the morning until 4 pm. Sometimes my working hours change due to outside meetings then I am either out of the office for the day or catching up on admin the next day. We do what every other business does from filling to sending emails daily, making calls and networking, we are always networking.
7. How do you balance your home life and your work life?
A. With my office at home, it can be difficult at times as much as the business is in demand of my time and so are my family, especially my twins, but they know and respect my time in the office and they sit with me and while I am busy working they finish their homework.
They know the time I am supposed to be free but I would say it helps to have a supportive spouse or partner, and I have that in my husband also, my business partner, that gladly helps out with everything including the girls by spending time with them and he cooks too, his way (laughing). I don’t complain, I fall in as long as everyone is happy and tasks are completed. Our children are also interested in what we do they ask questions and help by cleaning the office for a charge of course, but we all win in the end.
8. What drives you and inspires you?
A. I am inspired daily. I wake up with gratitude counting my blessings one by one. Mostly I would say my daughters are my biggest inspiration, but not just them the young girls in the community I came from that are still faced with poverty and daily struggles. I want to be the role model they look up to and remind themselves that a bright future is possible if you believe in yourself. I never wanted to just change the lives of my own but every young girl that struggles, and if persevering through my daily struggles and challenges does that and with my story, I inspire them then I have done what I set out to do purposefully.
To take it further I have launched a girl program through My organization New heritage foundation to provide them with skills, leadership camps and menstrual education providing them with sanitary napkins because I believe we must be intentional about the impact we want to make and the legacies we want to leave behind. I will not leave this world like I found it but will leave my mark of change on it for all those future leaders still coming after me.
9. Where and when do you have your best ideas?
A. I always have an idea but I must be honest not every idea is a good idea (laughing) however, God gives wisdom and I draw from His promises and perfect plan for my life and that is my foundation. Spending time with myself or in the word of God reflecting has me at most times overflowing with new ideas or channels I can follow for my personal life and my business.
10. Where and how do you market/advertise your business for sales leads?
A. I love the marketing part of my business, I love talking and meeting new people. I use the telephone, email, website, but mostly I market my business through networking that I do almost every day and it works for the business and it exposes me to new opportunities out there as well. I am my business so all I need to do is arrive.
11. What is next for your business?
A. Our next step is to manufacture locally within South Africa and create more jobs locally and internationally as we grow our product line and other opportunities within the import and export sector and we will.
12. What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs hoping to start their own business?
A. I would say to another woman wanting to start a business to go ahead and do it. The fear of doing something out of your comfort zone will always be there and it is the first thought that will minister to you all that will be impossible, don’t listen to it, instead, do the opposite go out and do it. Fear is like the question you never ask and the answer will always be no.
Faith and belief in yourself are all you need and this sums up your 100% willingness to go even though you don’t know the full plan and can’t see it either, 90% attitude and 10% capital. Find the one thing you are good at invest in it and then build it until you don’t have to anymore. The process is sometimes harder for some and easier for others but either way, it is worth it in the end. Rest if you must but never quit.