According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), South African woman entrepreneurs make up less than 5% of the country’s entrepreneur population – below the global average. We’ve got some serious catching up to do, girls! Why not glean a little inspiration from these nine South African female celebrity entrepreneurs?
Need further inspiration? Also read: 11 Female Celebrity Entrepreneurs
#1: Basetsana Kumalo
A former Miss South Africa and Runner-up Miss World, Basetsana Kumalo (Bassie), has used her beauty pageant career to springboard into entrepreneurship – first, as presenter on Top Billing, then as editor of the Top Billing Magazine. She’s now the Executive Chairperson of the show’s production company, Tswelopele Productions, as well as Executive Chairperson of Tswelopele Publishing and Tswelopele Group, a branding, marketing and events solutions company. Bassie is also a director at JSE-listed coal mining company, Uzalile Investments and a non-executive director at diamond exploration company, Tawana Resources. But that’s not all for this ultimate South African female celebrity entrepreneur. She’s also made several strategic investments, most notably in the travel and motor industries, endorses Revlon Realistic Hair Products, has an optical and sunglasses range distributed through SpecSavers and a clothing line, distributed through Ackermans.
#2: Khanyi Dhlomo
Magazine cover shoots as at age 15, radio newsreader by 18, television newsreader by 20, editor of True Love magazine by age 22 – Khanyi Dhlomo’s rise to the top has been nothing short of meteoric. After eight years at True Love, Dhlomo needed a change of scenery and relocated to Paris to run SA Tourism’s campaign there, before studying an MBA at Harvard. It was while at Harvard that Dhlomo hatched her plan to become a woman entrepreneur and publish her own magazine, using Vanity Fair and Vogue as inspiration. In 2007, she launched Destiny – a groundbreaking magazine combining lifestyle and business content. Now, a bona fide South African female celebrity entrepreneur, she’s the CEO of Ndalo Media – which comprises print publications Destiny and Destiny Man and online brand extensions DestinyConnect and DestinyMan.com – and a director at Foschini Retail Group.
#3: Leanne Manas
Leanne Manas started her broadcasting career as a weekend and late night newsreader on Radio 702, before becoming the news anchor for Classic FM, and hosting shows on Jacaranda, Radio Algoa and East Coast Radio. Then, as the main news anchor on DSTV channel Summit TV, Manas showed that she was even better in front of the camera, than she was behind a radio microphone. Her performance as a lead anchor on SABC’s coverage of the 2004 national elections impressed SABC producers and they hired her to co-host Morning Live. Her television career has prompted a move into entrepreneurship; in addition to teaching television skills, Manas is a highly-sought after motivational speaker and MC, and has secured several high-profile sponsorships, including Polo, Givenchy and Sensai Cosmetics
#4: Ashley Hayden
After 21 years as a continuity presenter on MNET, Hayden was at a loose end when the pay TV channel decided to can continuity presenters altogether. But the Girl with the Golden Voice used her television experience and exposure to facilitate an entry into entrepreneurship. Her company Feature Perfect Productions offers media training and corporate training, and she’s now one of the country’s most familiar and highly paid voice-over artists, with clients like former employers MNET; Chanel; Edgars; CNA: ABSA: SA Breweries; Radox; Beacon and Jik. Being runner-up on Celebrity Survivor 2010 gave her career a further boost – a part in popular soapie, 7de Laan and a brand endorsement for Volvo.
Described as the South African Oprah, Felicia Mabuza-Suttle was born into an entrepreneurial family in Sophiatown but relocated to the United States to study journalism. After college, she entered the television industry, working her way up to an executive position at Houston Public Television Channel 8. On her return to South Africa in 1994, she landed her own TV show, The Felicia Show on SABC. This busy woman entrepreneur is now the executive producer of US cable channel, The Africa Channel and founder member and non-executive director of Pamodzi Investment Holdings Ltd. (incorporating two of South Africa’s biggest brands, Harmony Gold and Foodcorp). Mabuza-Suttle also owns a successful restaurant at Gold Reef City, Back o’ the Moon, and is a bestselling author.
#6: Doreen Morris
Although she worked part-time as a domestic worker to help fund her studies, Doreen Morris was determined not to wind up as a domestic worker like her mother. When Morris applied for a secretarial position at media company, Naspers, she was fortunate to be interviewed by the man who would go on to found MNET, Koos Becker. Recognising her potential, Becker got her a position as a continuity presenter on SABC. Later, she moved over to MNET, presenting Carte Blanche, lifestyle programme Revue Plus and the Miss South Africa Pageant. At that time, the Miss SA Pagaent was on the wane. Morris recognised an opportunity for a woman entrepreneur – she bought the rights, rebuilt the Miss SA brand and re-sold the rights to Sun International.
Morris is now a South African female celebrity entrepreneur to be reckoned with – her business portfolio includes investments in property, theatre and television production and working as an MC through her company, Redline Pictures. Morris produces and hosts Gliterrati, a lifestyle show on DSTV channel Kyknet, and hosts a lifestyle programme – African Living – on the Home Channel. Morris is a brand ambassador for real estate company, Engel & Völkers.
Born and raised on the Cape Flats, Gerry Ranteseli moved to Johannesburg where she worked as a secretary in the office of Thabo Mbeki, then Head of International Affairs. Then came a move into broadcasting, when she landed a job as a continuity presenter on MNET. Television has proved a useful platform for Rantseli-Elsdon to launch her career as a South African female celebrity entrepreneur. Her entrepreneurial activities include brand endorsements for Lux and Avon, the Gerry E signature collection of jewellery; TV production company Soul Productions; Soul Magazine and a directorship at Hlobisile Transport Management. Ranteli-Elson also offers grooming and presentation skills workshops; wellness workshops and events management through her company, Cinnamon Communications. And as if that’s not enough on her plate, Rantseki-Elsdon still finds time to present on DSTV Channel, One Gospel, and to lecture the television component of Allenby Campus’s Television and Broadcasting Course.
#8: Patricia Lewis
Dubbed South Africa’s Favourite Blonde, Patricia Lewis is a former beauty queen who has made it big. Being cast in TV commercials in the 1980s paved the way for Lewis to rollout a career in television, hosting such shows as Toyota Top 20, Blonde Ambisie and MNET Summer Festival. Proving she’s more to her loyal fans than just a pretty face, Lewis is a high-flying South African female celebrity entrepreneur. Not only is she South Africa’s bestselling female artist of all time, but she’s also the creator of the second most-watched reality show in South Africa, Supersterre. Lewis cashes in, not only on the TV show, but also on Supersterre merchandising, live shows and CDs. But that’s not nearly enough for this driven woman entrepreneur who also manages to squeeze in 200 live shows a year and a brand endorsement for Flashpoints Hair Extensions.
#9: Nkhensani Nkosi
Nkhensani Nkosi was a television presenter before she launched her iconic South African lifestyle brand, Stoned Cherrie. Now she’s a recognised as one of South Africa’s most successful woman entrepreneurs. A fashion pioneer, Nkosi has fused African and Western trends to create a uniquely South African signature style. Nkosi had a specific vision of entrepreneurship – while many entrepreneurs might have opted to open a chain of boutiques, Nkosi has just the one flagship store in Rosebank, Johannesburg. Rather, she aimed to get the Stoned Cherrie brand into the major national retailers – now, she has a Stoned Cherrie range in Woolworths and 48 ‘store-within-a-store’ concepts in Foschini. The Stoned Cherrie fashion line has since expanded to include accessories, homewear and eyewear, distributed in 450 optometrist stores nationwide. Nkosi also owns a production company, Vicious Punk Productions.