Celebrating the resilience of women-owned businesses in South Africa
A farm girl from Mooi River who always strives for growth and excellence. This is how businesswoman and engineering professional Thandi Nxgongo describes herself. Now married to Menzisi Ngxongo and blessed with three children, Thandi says even though she is a chemical engineer by profession she’s always had a passion to serve.
Ngxongo has been invited to present her MBA paper which is about transformation at the International Society of Engineers and Researchers held in Rome, Italy. Some of her awards include the Nedbank Womandla award – Woman in Chemical Engineering category and Standard Bank KZN Top Business Inspiring Women in Business 2021. She shares her story with our content producer Basetsana Makhalemele.
Ignited Woman (IW): You are a true definition of Ignited Woman, can you give us a full insight of your profession?
Thandi Ngxongo (TN): I am a Managing Director of Thandekile Projects which has different portfolios including property management and BP Moore Road Petrol service station, Thandi’s Kitchen – Selling African food as well as the uThandekile Foundation – “Touching life, One heart at a time: Community empowerment projects, Mentorship and Coaching. We spread love through five pillars including rural kids dream big, youth empowerment programmes, women with drive initiative, women in STEM platforms, coaching and mentorship.
IW: What inspired you to become a business woman that you are today?
TN: I grew up in a family where everyone is employed, no one was in business. When I was studying I also had a mentality of getting employment. As I grew I developed a passion to break a circle of employees in my family lineage, I decided to start a business as a way of laying a foundation for my kids and generations to come. My motivation to do business in this male dominated industry stems from the fact that I grew up in this male dominated industry as an Engineer, and when I was in senior management I got exposed to this petroleum retail sector, then I developed passion for it, I made it my focus area during my MBA, and since then I never looked back, I worked hard and pressed on until I was enable to penetrate.
IW: How has your professional/career journey been for you as a woman in a male dominated industry?
TN: The journey has been a rollercoaster. Even though I am used to male dominated environment, sometimes the journey becomes tiring when we constantly have to prove ourselves twice compared to male counterparts. What helps and what I always advocate for is that if you want to start a business, do enough research, go to school if you can so that you have enough knowledge and exposure in order to lead properly. I am a person who is self-motivated, I live a purposeful life and therefore the “why” I do what I do fuels my passion everyday.
IW: What’s the biggest challenge you have faced as a female entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?
TN: My challenges as a female entrepreneur has been access to funding, this business venture requires one to have both unencumbered funds and funding. I wanted to venture into this business around 2014, but I first had to save every penny I had in order to accumulate an unencumbered fund in my name. I saved aggressively, I was living on 60% of my salary, 40% was going to savings. Also, the process of getting funding is not easy. Funding institutions have a series of requirements and lots of paperwork to prove that their money is safe with you and you will be able to repay all of it.
IW: What has been your greatest achievement, that you can boldly say you’re proud of today?
TN: A grateful heart I have due to the fact that I wake up everyday to do what I love, what I am qualified for, what I am passionate about, what the world needs and get paid for it. This for me is a point of Ikigai and I am grateful to God for enabling this for me and through me. I always say I have tasted heaven on earth, not because I am rich, but because I operate at a point of Ikigai, I am blessed and it's my greatest achievement!