This has been one of the most amazing journeys of my life. A journey that would:
- make me go inside and take a long hard look at myself,
- make me look at my business; and
- give me a uniquely golden opportunity to share this roller coaster ride with an extraordinary group of South
African women who have shared so much of themselves with me, who have challenged me, who have inspired me and who have taught me a great deal.
The biggest challenge was to fit the course requirements into an already busy business schedule. Without the support and understanding of an amazing woman - Master Beader Beauty Maswanganyi - who has been my business partner and support for the past twelve years this would not have been possible. Beauty, what to you might seem small, has enabled us to grow – ngiyabonga.
An awakening for me was listening to how us women, as participants, referred to ourselves and what we are doing. For example ‘ I am a farmer ‘ when the reality is ‘I am a farmer - we farm with Ayreshire cattle and supply milk into Woolworths!’ Why talk so small???
The realization is that the people, these women, my colleagues, are all doing what may appear small - and yet, in so many ways what we are doing is so much more than this. A helping hand in hard times seems small to the giver, but it may mean the world to the recipient.
A business with only five employees may look small, to the outsider, but to those people who benefit from being a part of that venture, it is a life for them and their families.
Rural women who sit weaving or beading under the trees the way their grandmothers would have, some of whom have never travelled further than 200kms from their homes, may seem to be occupying a small world. But their creations are travelling the globe, parading the catwalks of NY, and capturing the imagination of international travelers with their unique stories.
So, small is doing big things!
When I first arrived on campus I was caught up in the daily grind of cash flow, sales and orders – things that clouded my perspective and made progress feel slow and heavy.
GIBS stepped in, providing us with practical tools - Finance, Marketing, Business plans, presentations, mentors etc. This was a change in perspective.
The bonus was the opportunity to share a focused space with a diverse group of 45 women on a similar journey and this enabled me to step out of my daily world and to realize that what I am doing is not so insignificant. This was the gift of context.
My golden key is to work ON the business and not IN the business because in this way passion is awakened and innovation flows. Through supporting one another, sharing stories and inspiration we have shown that in the business world, where competition is the focus, co operation is a much stronger creative force which yields richer results not necessarily measured in Rands.
I was fortunate to have a mentor that was able to give me feedback in a way that I could understand and learn from. I believe that both in life and in business we need to have someone (or a few) people who will mentor – who hold their hand firmly in the small of your back and with gentle pressure (or a hard push if necessary!) move you out of your comfort zone to enable you to grow.
My AHA is that my attitude (thinking small) was the liability and that I already had an asset which is my determination, positivity and passion for what I do.
I started small and walk out tall.
My deepest joy has been watching the growth of so many in the group. As women, the world over, we have often learnt to play small. We have been pushed to the back, silenced, looked over, whatever. And yet, rather than throw our hands up, we have taken the knock on the chin, picked ourselves up – even if we were knocked right back down – and started again.
As daughters, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, friends, partners and business women we are making big contributions in our little areas of influence, contributions that are having big impacts.
As American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead noted: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
Today I am empowered in the knowledge that I have identified my greatest liability and am well equipped with new knowledge to move my business forward, richer because of the experience and new friends.
To the GIBS team – I wish to acknowledge you as leaders because for me a leader is someone who unlocks that same potential in others – and you certainly have unlocked a great deal in many. I thank each of you as in your own way you have been there for us every step of the way. Your small contributions have left a big impression.
Thanks also goes to Goldman Sachs for supporting this amazing global initiative.
Fellow participants – I am honoured to have walked this path with you and I thank each of you for the many gifts you have brought me – insight into your worlds, your challenges and your triumphs, your strengths and your courage, your differences and your similarities, our differences and our similarities.
I stand here proud to be a woman, one of a 10 000 strong global collective. And if each one of us who are ‘small’ keep making our contribution to our families, our businesses, our communities our countries we have the potential to change the world. Maybe this change has already started… Wathint'Abafazi, Wathint'imbokodo!