By Ouma Tema
JOHANNESBURG - Let me start by greeting and saluting all fellow businesswomen in Mzansi.
It has not been easy ladies, tackling the business world and maintaining who we are, not forgetting where we come from and embracing what we are becoming.
I know this has been by far the toughest business year for entrepreneurs, especially us in growing businesses.
In the nine years of growing and building Plus-Fab as a brand, I have seen the beautiful, the ugly and worse! I always tell my clients and followers that Plus-Fab is more than just a business, we are family, we are a movement - we are the lemonade from life’s lemons.
Business has been tough in the last few years, but this year is the toughest.
The world Covid-19 pandemic has affected us a great deal! We have gone from selling high fashion clothing and plus size women’s wear to selling PPEs… It’s funny because never in my life did I see myself bending in that direction, but I am grateful to God because my business was on the verge of shutting down. But, through acquired wisdom, I find myself with a full factory of versatile and capable staff.
We had to become an essential business, packed away our glam diva look and started putting on our work suits.
I have grown to realise that your competitors could actually become your allies, because no one business can stand on its own, and that our clients are family who in tough times still buy our clothes and masks, as well as everything else that we sell. We have people who have been with us since the beginning and still support us today.
Sometimes, I hold my breath to month end, sacrifice my own salary and comforts just so that my team that backs me can have the means to survive the month. This year 2020 has challenged me beyond measure and taught me that obedience is better than sacrifice. I honestly do not know how it is that I am still standing, and my business is still alive with everything going on! Must be grace…
Beyond the grace is having built rigid and lasting business relationships including trying to grow other women who want to start their own businesses. Being a female entrepreneur in this modern society still seems a bit foreign in South Africa, forgetting that we grew up seeing women in the streets selling fruit and vegetables.
Women are still not given fair opportunity; we still need to fight harder. When you are a young black woman and building an empire anywhere in the world, it is a battle! We want to reach a stage where being a young black businesswoman is the norm and that we are not seen as any different from every other business person.
It is already hard making your way in the world when you are a woman and black. We need to fight extra hard just to get recognised or be heard, we need to face “Africanism” in the workplace, where your position as an employer is compromised and questioned.
I must remember that I have employed mothers and men - older than me. I am obliged to battle each day not knowing which route to take to be heard without being called “bossy”, “unruly” or “heartless”.
It’s a daily battle that I face and will continue to face but I choose professionalism… Always. That is the best strategy.
I had to be tested and challenged to nurture and grow my brand and busines. I may not always be excited about my achievements and how far I have come, but God knows that I am a million miles away from where I began.
I still have much to do, and a legacy to build. I will continue to build and looking forward to a million more miles of being Ouma Tema the founder, director, creative and mother of Plus-Fab. When I see women happy and wearing my brand, I know that I have been doing the right thing.
I am the one I have been waiting for.
Ouma Tema is the founder and director of the Proudly South African clothing brand Plus Fab – making larger women look and feel beautiful. Tema is writing as a guest of Proudly SA .