#WIB – Q&A With Hon. Beverley Schäfer Deputy Speaker for the WCPP

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1. Can you please tell us more about your business?

A. Speaking on a variety of topics that make use of the valuable information and exposure I’ve had over the past decade.

These topics include green energy and renewables; the hemp and medicinal cannabis industry, which is on the verge of exploding across the world but also in South Africa; as well as technology and innovation, and how these in combination can help drive jobs and grow the economy in a region. And then, of course, I plan to have a focus on women in the public space.

On the latter topic, I will go into how women can actually lean in (with reference to Sheryl Sandberg’s book, but in our region); and how we can start to support each other, rather than competing against one another.

I believe, in the current political space in which I find myself, there’s a growing need for us women to be able to create a support system that lends itself to us becoming really successful – i.e. rising to the same level on which we find many of our male counterparts. This is particularly pertinent today when an increasing number of women are becoming presidents and prime ministers of countries.

2. When, how, and why did you start your business?

A. My business is relatively new; I’m kicking it off while I’m still working. You can’t just become a conference and keynote speaker without having experience and credentials. So my thinking is that you have to go through a relatively long period in which you strive to create credibility in your space and begin to be seen as somebody worth listening to. It doesn’t, of course, work to be completely new in the game, without any experience with regard to the topics on which you have chosen to speak – however passionately you may feel about them.

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On the podium
3. What is, or will be, your role in the business?

A. My role will be that of a sole proprietor, with skilled associates. As it is a start-up, my role in the future will depend on how I develop my business going forward. To date, my thinking is that it will require me to be the “keynote speaker” myself.

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Beverley Schäfer
4. Where and what did you study?

A. I studied in various places in my past life; via the old College System of the 1980s (I really am giving my age away), when I was a student at Johannesburg College of Education, majoring in High-School Education and Sport or PhysEd (which no longer exists). I then proceeded to become the first person to convert from a diploma to a full degree, and majored in Biokinetics and Sports Marketing through a PhysEd degree from Wits.

I then moved on in time and, fast-forwarding many years later, fell back on teaching when I was living abroad for 12 years – upskilling with a course in learning difficulties/challenges in high-school children, with a focus on dyslexia and ADHD when these ailments where just beginning to be understood.

I then got hooked on marketing; and brand marketing remains one of my passions to this day, because I think you can use it anywhere you go and in whatever field you find yourself. So, making use of my brand marketing qualification, I launched a young brand in the mortgage business in 2007, and a year later discovered politics through pressure by friends, which lead me into a whirlwind of absolute passion and drive.

So, as you can see, I’ve changed my career many, many times, and believe this approach is the only way to remain relevant. In fact, changing your career every decade or decade and a half forces your brain to undergo the healthy process of re-wiring and re-learning. I’m really looking forward to my upcoming career change.

5. How do you finance your business?

A. At present, it is self-financed and this will continue until such time it gets to a point where it isn’t.

6. Describe your average workday, if such a thing exists.

A. My average workday is different every day, and that is the one thing I really love – the versatility of having a workday that isn’t the same as yesterday.

So: there are days when my work day starts very early in the morning, at 7 am, and finishes very late in the evening; and there are other days when my workday is a little bit more flexible and I may only have to go into the office at around about 9 am. It all depends on what is actually happening in my diary on a particular day. But I tend to try and regulate those haphazard workdays by getting up regularly at around 5:30 am to start my day.

One thing I can’t stand is rushing in the morning in order to be ready because I’m running late. I like to really take my time, to ease into the morning and focus on what is ahead and what I need to prioritise. An important part of having a more flexible workday is getting up at a regular time each day. So I try to get up regularly at around 5:30 am.

7. How do you balance your home life and your work life?

A. Well, for many, many, many, many years, I have had no balance. No balance was actually my balance, which was a space I was kind of happy in. I’m far more balanced now, according to the accepted definition, than I‘ve ever been. I think that, as you get older, you realise what is important. During my previous role as Western Cape Minister of Economic Development, I really found it difficult to have much of a balance where work was balanced with home life. I had to give it my all. I had to spend a lot of time out of my home; and that came with the job. And that’s what you do when you’re in positions such as me.

8. What drives you and inspires you?

A. Really being able to have some sort of influence that will make a difference in the world. To notice the small changes that your influence makes is truly inspirational. But I’m also driven by the economics of the world; by looking at change and innovation – this really, really drives and inspires me to find solutions to complex problems and to be able to be part of the change i.e. to see how you can, with some influence, have an influence on others.

9. Where and when do you have your best ideas?

A. I really have my best ideas when I am talking to people. So I might be in the middle of a conversation, and come up with something while I’m in that space. I find it very important that a reading is one thing; but really chatting about something – a policy, an issue, or a challenge – gives me the most opportunity to have a good idea.

10. Where and how will you market/advertise your sideline business for sales leads?

A. It really is going to be word-of-mouth; it is going to include having a good CV on the many platforms on which I have spoken across the world; and it really is about making sure that my online presence is up to date and people understand that the business I would like to growing concerns about an international space.

11. What is next for your business?

A. The next step is making sure that all the basic foundations of building a business are in place. It is no use jumping in at the deep end and then wondering why your business does not work. You have to have the people in place that can assist you in setting up that solid foundation, so that you can go ahead productively.

12. What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs hoping to start their own business?

A. I think the most important thing about entrepreneurship, and female entrepreneurship at that is to be able to believe in yourself to take the giant leap of faith that you’re actually good enough to be equally successful as anyone else whom you see out there. And that doesn’t always come very easily. I think women, in particular, may find it quite difficult at times having to take the slog; this very lonely path. I think entrepreneurship can be lonely in the beginning stages.

Believing in your own product where others don’t; persevering when others say you should really throw it in, and being responsible for how much time you put into it is all vital. When other people are out and about in the evenings and at the weekend, you may need to be working.

So entrepreneurship is a tough option, a hard game, but the rewards are huge on the other end when you know that it is through your own personal hard work, dedication, and drive that you’ve managed to create something that you deem to be successful.

Contact Beverley Schafer on 083 598 3676 or email her at beverleyschafer@gmail.com. Her social media links are: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/beverleyschafer

Twitter: @bevschafer | Instagram: @bevschafer