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Resilience has a new name in Judy Jennings

Serial entrepreneur Judy Jennings is a renowned franchisee. The award-winning business mogul has carved out a dynamic career for herself in over 23 years working in the telecommunications industry.

She is the current sole director of seven Vodacom franchise stores in Durban and sits on the board of the Eastern Cape Council of Franchisees as Chairperson.

Born in Orange Grove, one of the villages in Mthatha, Judy’s entrepreneurial drive did not just spin out of the blue. She comes from a family of entrepreneurs, her grandmother owned a spaza shop, her family sold vegetables and that was instilled in her. At the tender age of 12, she would sell sweets and vegetables to bring some money back home, contributing her part only how a preteen would know to do.

Quarter-Life Crisis

Having worked for a bank for nine years, she panicked and felt trapped in her job. She was determined not to spend her tenth year working in corporate. True to her drive she started scouring for opportunities and started on a small scale by selling vegetables, because she was determined to run her own empire.

“On weekends, I would drive back to Mthatha from East London where l was working at the time with my boot full of vegetables to sell to my friends”.

She was then contracted by Vodacom to sell cell phone contracts until an opportunity presented itself for her to open a franchise store becoming not only the first black woman but the first franchise owner in her hometown Mthatha. With God guiding her steps as she put it, she had a plethora of support. She got help drawing up her business plan from friends who were well versed in the field and her ‘good Samaritan’ helped her overcome the funding hurdle which is typical of any business starting up.

The then general manager of the ECDC (Eastern Cape Development Corporation) formerly known as Transkei Development Corporation believed enough in her vision to give her the money she needed to start.

Failure is not an option

Even though she has had failures, it has never been an option for Judy. “I had a good start in my first year of business and I even won an award, but in my second year I had failures, I couldn’t buy stock. Nonetheless what was most important to me was that l was going to make it. I had to go back to the drawing board and re -strategize. Failure was not an option; I was in this and there was no way I was going to drop the ball.”

She has celebrated many wins throughout her 23 year journey with the first highlight coming in her first year of business by winning an international trip to Australia from the Franchise Awards.

She has since gone on to scoop over eight awards including Franchisee of the year , Eastern Cape Region in 2003, 2008, 2011, 2012 and Africa’ Most Influential Women in Business award for the SADC Region . “Franchise business is a good business because you get the support.”

She also attributes her success to her staff.

“Have a team that believes in your vision, “she says “Working hard, knowing your customers and staff is very important because those are the people that interact with the customers’. If they understand the why and what you want to achieve, people will then deliver. But if they don’t understand the strategy, then there’s always confusion and no alignment.”

Branching out into her passions

Judy’s franchise business has opened doors for endless opportunities. In 2015, she diversified into the supply of printing and now owns two Nashua franchises. She recently tapped into one of her passions, hospitality and has partnered up with her son & a former business colleague to open Spa franchises.

Advice to women

“Do not to be afraid. When you fail, be sure to stand-up. Be passionate about what you want to do and be hands on. Lastly we need to support each other as women in business.”



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Editor's note

American novelist Louisa May Alcott said it best when she said “Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”

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