Taking a leap of faith to pursue business

Monday, November 26, 2018

By Nosihle Shelembe

For many, leaving a secure job to venture into the unknown world of business, is a scary thought. But businesswoman Portia Mngomezulu, chose to put her faith in her dreams.

She took the plunge and resigned from her job in IT to focus on her skincare and cosmetics company.

As daunting as the experience was for Mngomezulu, she instinctively knew she had made the right decision when she received a call from Mass Mart offering her a scholarship to study at the Gordon Institute of Business Science.

In 2014, the entrepreneur enrolled at the institution for a one year supply development programme.

“I resigned in 2013 because my business was taking too much of my time. Even though I had some people laughing at me for leaving my job, I didn’t care because I already knew that one day I would have a full range of products,” Mngomezulu said.

The 37-year-old woman established her business “Portia M” in 2011 after she discovered that the marula oil can alleviate the appearance of stretch marks.

It was her mother in-law who suggested that she use the marula oil when she experienced stretch marks after giving birth to her son.

Impressed by the results, she then began selling the raw marula oil as a side business to her friends on Facebook and at church.

Her business has come a long way since the days of selling her products to her friends as she now has a full range of skincare products which she supplies to more than 1 600 stores nationwide.

Her products are available at Pick n Pay, Shoprite, Game and Clicks, as well as stores in Botswana and Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland.

Mngomezulu’s business wasn’t funded by the banks as they thought the cosmetics sector was too risky. So when she received her R356 000 pay out from her former employer, she invested it into the business.

“I invested every cent that I made into the business. Growing a business organically is not easy because you have to be disciplined. There was a time when I only wore one black outfit because that is the only one I had. Every R20 mattered and had to go back into the business,” she smiles, thinking back.

The 10 time award winning business woman only started paying herself a salary in 2017. She was recently awarded the supplier of the year by Pick n Pay where she has made over R20 million in sales.

When Mngomezulu discovered the benefits of the marula oil, she knew she wanted to compete in retail.

She developed a few products for her skincare range and when she was satisfied with them, she approached the Small Enterprise Development Agency (seda) for assistance.

Seda paid for her products to be tested by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) and provided her with a business adviser to guide her on her journey as a businesswoman.

Portia M products include body lotions, a facial skincare range, a bath, as well as a baby care range.

Government institutions have played a major role in assisting Mngomezulu with financial support and navigating the business environment.

Last year Mngomezulu’s business received a R600 000 grant through Seda’s Technology programme which she used to buy machinery.

The programme provides a range of services that promote entrepreneurship in industry, particularly in enabling small enterprises to access appropriate technology to become more competitive and grow their businesses.

She is also a recipient of the Top 40 National Gazelles, a flagship small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) support programme of Seda and the Department of Small Business Development.

The programme is aimed at identifying and supporting SMEs with growth potential through a comprehensive range of business growth-oriented programmes, activities and partnerships.

Through its combination of financial and non-financial support, the National Gazelles aims to assist members to grow faster and more profitably than they would normally do.

As a recipient of the National Gazelles, Mngomezulu received a grant of R1 million in 2017.

Mngomezulu has lauded government for contributing to the growth of her business.

“Government institutions that are meant to assist entrepreneurs are helpful, but it’s important for entrepreneurs to have a vision and customers,” she says.

Mngomezulu, who employs about 30 people, has advised aspiring entrepreneurs to develop their negotiating skills, deliver on time and invest the money they make back into their business.

She warned entrepreneurs about getting excited by getting funding and rushing to buy expensive cars, without creating longevity for their business.

“We are here to create generation legacies. South Africans need to produce their own products. We cannot afford to think for now. There is a generation that are depending on us to break the poverty cycle,” she says.

Mngomezulu’s story is a testament that government is committed to contributing to the growth of small businesses as the National Development Plan (NDP) states that they will play an important role in creating employment. The NDP is aimed at eliminating poverty, unemployment and reducing inequality by 2030. – SAnews.gov.za