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What female entrepreneurship looked like in 2015

We look at the ups and downs faced by female entrepreneurs - the business pioneers that continue to break glass ceilings


The face of entrepreneurship in South Africa continues to be male. Research by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) shows that the typical South African entrepreneur is male and between the ages of 25 and 44 years of age. 

The number of women entrepreneurs, however, is growing and they are starting businesses in industries previously dominated by men.

According to statistics by the Small Enterprise Development Agency, approximately 72% of micro-enterprises and 40% of small enterprises are owned by women.

We take a look at the stories highlighting the performance of female entrepreneurs in 2015. 


One of the entrepreneurship insights of this year explored in the article Here are some of the biggest entrepreneurship insights from 2015 was that female-run businesses are more successful than those run by men. This is according to a study, The Psychology of Entrepreneurship, conducted by Barclays and the University of Cambridge. The study was based on a sample of 2 000 entrepreneurs and employees in the UK, Germany, Singapore and the US. 

Their findings revealed that female-run businesses do better than male-run ones, "reporting higher pre-tax profits than businesses run by men."

According to the article, this was despite the fact that women business owners were more modest, with only 42% claiming that their businesses are prospering, compared to 62% of men. 


Ntombezinhle Jiyane (DJ Zinhle).

As part of SME South Africa's Women's Month 2015 series, which ran throughout the month of August, SME South Africa, in the article Female entrepreneurship: Is South Africa winning the gender inequality struggle? speaks to 5 influential women in business about the successes and challenges of female entrepreneurs in South Africa, and what can be done to overcome the societal barriers holding women back.

We picked the brains of business leaders like Matsi Modise, managing director at SiMODiSA and National Executive Director of the South African Black Entrepreneurs Forum (SABEF); DJ Zinhle, co-founder of The Firm Understanding of Sound Entertainment (FUSE) Academy and Era by DJ Zinhle; Amanda Patterson, Founder and CEO of Writers Write, Annelise de Jager - Founder of Tekkie Tax and Legacy Through Charity Trust, Gugu Mjadu - Spokesperson for the 2015 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. 

Read to find out: Their experiences as female entrepreneur in male-dominated industries, and thoughts about whether South Africa is winning or losing the gender equality war. 

KIM ENGELAGE - Breaking boundaries in automotive franchising

Kim Engelage, franchise owner of Auto Magic, an auto body repair and panel beating franchise. In the article Why automotive franchising is growing in SA, Engelage shares how she bought an Auto Magic franchise in Strijdompark, Johannesburg, 10 years ago and has noticed significant, sustained growth in the automotive repair sector in this time.

Engelage has a background in auditing and human resources, but her husband Michael is a qualified mechanic. He brings his expertise to the workshop and she is responsible for finance. "It is essential to keep an eye on finance otherwise the business will fold," she says.

Read to find out:  Why Engelage says the franchising model provides an extensive support structure for franchisees, why it is the responsibility of the business owner to make a success of the venture. "You've got to drive your own success and distinguish yourself," she says.

She also believes that the most successful franchises in this sector are owned by people who have a technical background or experience in automotive repair. "You need to have knowledge of vehicles otherwise, you will be taken for a ride," she warns.

3 WOMAN entrepreneurs in male-dominated industries - a lesson in breaking boundaries

Tlaleng Moabi.

In the article 6 entrepreneurs on breaking gender barriers we profile entrepreneurs who are finding success in industries that are traditionally not associated with their gender - including electrical engineering, transportation, and large scale manufacturing. 

Words of wisdom from Tlaleng Moabi, founder of Enzani Technologies, an electrical and automation engineering company based in Johannesburg for female entrepreneurs looking to enter industries that are still dominated by men: 

"The engineering industry has transformed a lot over the past 20 years, but it still remains male-dominated and unfortunately, there are still some elements of professional disrespect. We still face challenges not because we are not technically competent, but rather because of perceptions. Someone taught me that business is simple, but people are delusional. As someone interested and having a passion in the field, I have taken every challenge as a stepping stone to be better at my job, and it has also helped me develop the mindset of a winner." 

Read to find out: The challenges of going against the grain, lessons learned and how these women are making their mark in their chosen industries.

MONALISA SAM - Why women need to lean in

Founder of Tungwa Retail Holdings,
Monalisa Sam.

Monalisa Sam has carved a niche for herself as an entrepreneur with expert knowledge on the South African retail environment. Sam is the founder of Tungwa Retail Holdings, a 100% South African black woman-owned retail and investing firm.

Before establishing the business, she became known as the first and youngest centre manager of Maponya Mall, the largest shopping centre in South Africa’s biggest township, Soweto. She has also managed Cavendish Square and The Zone in Rosebank. Over 11 years she has had exposure to more than 650 retailers in different retail categories.

In the article Top entrepreneur challenges assumptions about women in business Sam says we need more female pioneers to shatter assumptions about women and what they can achieve.

"If we have more women leaders and pioneers in business sectors that contribute meaningfully to the economy, we can inspire more girls to pursue those fields."

Read to find out: What it takes to make it into the retail business, and her journey as a female entrepreneur.

THERESA CUPIDO - Taking a nurturing approach to business

Theresa Cupido, ATN Group founder.

Western Cape businesswoman, Theresa Cupido is a female entrepreneur operating within the road construction industry with a business she started in 2006.

The 44-year-old Cupido is the owner and CEO of a road marking and civil engineering company, ATN Group, which is based in Bellville, Cape Town.

The ATN Group capabilities are diverse and include: civil engineering, traffic accommodation, road studs, routine road maintenance, pipe laying, concrete structures, sandblasting, and erosion protection works.

Cupido last year won the Sanlam/Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the Job Creator of the Year category. The award is given to enterprises that not only employ a significant number of people, but also those that play a key role in uplifting, up-skilling and training people.

Read to find out: Her views on the need for more women in the civil engineering industry and women as born leaders. 

"Women are natural entrepreneurs. Women are not fully supported and are often excluded in business, but this can be rectified by both national and provincial government and business institutes," Cupido says.

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