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Anela Mahamba, 31

Company founder
Kore Business Solutions
Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth)

When Anela Mahamba talks about her work to uplift her local community, her excitement and enthusiasm leave you in no doubt that she’ll succeed.

At 31, she’s still got the passion of youth, and she augments this with experience gained through running her own business to drive initiatives to promote self-sufficient communities.

Her company is Kore Business Solutions, which helps small and medium businesses by offering advice and training workshops on content creation, communication, ethical leadership, transformation, diversity and social impact. Her efforts have helped many small businesses get started, remain afloat and grow.

“What differentiates us is that we are a business driven by a moral compass, so our work is always based on having a social impact. We work with businesses that are ethical with forward-thinking leaders who share our values,” she says.
One of Kore’s clients was the Association of Christian Congregations of South Africa (Accsa), an organisation that runs multiple schemes to uplift township communities. Mahamba was so impressed by the organisation that she became more involved, and is now director of operations.

Accsa has been particularly active during the Covid pandemic with various schemes including serving meals seven days a week to vulnerable children and the elderly in the Motherwell community. “We provide resources where people can cook and this provides value for the community,” she says.

Another project involved the installation of a digital services portal in a Motherwell creche, giving youngsters access to e-learning opportunities. “It’s incredible to play a part in ensuring that early childhood development is accessible, even to the poorest in our communities. Being part of Accsa and a team that’s focused on making a positive impact through soup kitchens, providing clothing to the elderly and now moving into digital learning tools is very rewarding,” she says.

The latest initiative is a job portal to help people find employment, for which she has won the support of Discovery Health. Mahamba is now negotiating with training institutions to teach the youngsters soft skills, such as ethics, customer service and being a good team player. This will make them more employable. The first job seekers workshops were held in August.

“As a woman who grew up in a township and knows what it’s like to grow up in an environment with little to no resources, I know the need for young people to be given the tools for them to have an equal opportunity,” she says. “My ultimate goal is to see a transformed community where everyone is equipped and has resources.”

She believes she can help to achieve this by nurturing creative and responsible leaders who will encourage their communities to become self-sufficient and create jobs for each other. The high unemployment rate will never be solved by relying on traditional employers.

Mahamba is also an advisor for SME pitches at ABSA’s entrepreneurial centre in Gqeberha, which gives small businesses the tools to grow. In 2020, she was a guest speaker at the Nelson Mandela University Women in Entrepreneurship Series.

If we can create a generation of great ethical, accountable leaders we can build businesses that are responsible and value people more than profit and that look after people’s mental health.

Author - Lesley Stones
Akhona Sass, 36

Akhona Sass, 36

“Akhona Sass hopes that one day we can get rid of terms such as “the IT guy”, and has steadily been working to subvert the dominance of men in the IT industry by employing more young women at her company, Intotek.

Sass became director and owner of the technology and training organisation after initially declining a job offer from them, confident that she still had room to grow at Sage, where she was previously employed as a technical support agent. “I only had 10 months’ work experience at the time and had a lot of learning to do,” she says, adding that another job offer came from Intotek in 2015.

“I was eight months pregnant and had reached my ‘glass ceiling’ at Sage, having been there for eight years by then. I thought to myself: If I don’t take this leap now, I’ll have to stay at Sage for another year to pay off my maternity leave, so I took a leap of faith and left my cushy job to join Intotek – a small to medium-sized enterprise.”

A year into her career at Intotek, the company’s founder bought into other assets and gave Sass the opportunity to either join him at his other organisations or become the sole shareholder of Intotek. She chose the latter. “It was a no-brainer. It would fulfill my dream to become an entrepreneur.”

A few years later, Intotek was named the number one business partner by Sass’s former employer Sage — for three years in a row. She attributes her company’s success to failing many times and always trying to “fail forward”.

“We segmented our customers so we could get a better understanding of their needs and thus serve them better. We did not set ourselves up as Sage business partners, as that only speaks to our relationship with Sage. We want to understand all our customers’ business processes and automate these processes so they can get back to their core business.”

In addition to her work at Intotek, the Madadeni-born Sass is paying it forward by being involved in community initiatives such as HIV counselling at Rockstarz Foundation, and facilitating for the Spirit of Youth programme at GIBS Business School. “I was part of a youth group growing up, which shielded me from a lot of the bad things that happened around our neighborhood.
“I developed communication and leadership skills in this youth group. I therefore want to pour into the youth as much as I possibly can because during their crazy stage of adolescence, where personalities and life-altering decisions are made, you need just one caring adult to positively influence you.”

While her hopes for the future include further growth for Intotek, Sass is also focused on facilitating greater industry access for young women, playing a role in early childhood education and looking for ways to contribute meaningfully to township economies.”

“Leadership is not something that you master, then hang up as a certificate to display your greatness. It’s about putting systems in place to ensure that your team can operate with and without you, because their growth is important and this company is their legacy too.”

Zinaschke Steyn, 33

Zinaschke Steyn, 33

Zinaschke Steyn is a winemaker who grew up in Klerksdorp in North West province. After matriculating in 2005, she began her working life as a proofreader for a printing company in Worcester, but she always planned to move south, setting her heart on a BSc in chemical engineering at Stellenbosch University to become a brandy-maker.

But, as it tends to do, life intervened and, after close to two years in the Cape, it seemed that winemaking would be better suited to Steyn’s personality. She’d be working more closely with the elements, getting her hands dirty, being more physically involved from the get-go and tackling each vintage as an entirely new project — and this excited her.

“It’s the anticipation of new challenges, new parameters and new responses every year. That state of flux appeals to me. So, in 2007 I met up with oom Willie van Zijl at Elsenburg, and the rest is history.”

She went on to make wine for Overhex Private Cellar, followed by KWV and GlenWood Vineyards, after graduating in 2010 with a BAgric degree in winemaking and viticulture from Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute in Stellenbosch. In 2018, she was offered the job as assistant red-winemaker at Nederburg, catapulting her into the role of this award-winning Paarl winery’s fully-fledged red-winemaker.

The Western Cape’s climate is similar to that of the Mediterranean, making it well-suited to growing wine grapes — so it’s no wonder that South Africa is ranked seventh among the biggest wine-producing countries on the planet, according to 2020 data by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine. South Africa’s wine industry consists of many sectors, from agriculture and grape growing to winemaking, wine tourism and hospitality.

Steyn believes that all these factors contribute significantly to job creation and skills development that ultimately benefit our people and the economy. The wine industry in South Africa has traditionally been a male-dominated business, but she is a part of the paradigm shift that is slowly seeing more and more women enrolling for winemaking courses and degree programmes, entering the industry and making a real impact.

She says: “As a female winemaker, you should be adaptable and innovative. It’s important to start from the bottom and not be scared to get your hands dirty. You need to understand and trust the process, while building strong relationships with your team members.”

To take the bounty of nature, work with it and nurture it into something special and delicious is the most invigorating aspect of winemaking for Steyn. She believes that people should be happy in their work and she finds nothing more satisfying than witnessing a consumer enjoy a wine that she’s had a hand in making.

Asked about her proudest achievement so far, she replies: “Being appointed as Nederburg’s new red-winemaker — no doubt!”

It’s important to start from the bottom and not be scared to get your hands dirty.

Portia Mavhungu, 33

Portia Mavhungu, 33

In 2011, Portia Mavhungu was involved in a major accident and spent seven months in a wheelchair after breaking her pelvis. During this time, her eyes were opened to the difficulties that disabled people face, especially when using the bathroom. She needed assistance from her mother and grandmother for all sorts of daily tasks. This loss of independence made her think about others whose entire lives are spent in a wheelchair, unable to use the bathroom independently. For this reason, Mavhungu came up with an innovative seating device called the PARA-TUBE. This device fits on to any wheelchair and consists of a seat, disposable bags and sanitisers. Mavhungu explains that the PARA-TUBE can be retrofitted on to any standard wheelchair and works with disposable bags and a portable, built-in toilet. The user only needs to pull the middle part of the seat forward by using a handle.

Mavhungu did not intend to become an inventor, but she always knew that she wanted to help people. A strong believer in inclusivity in all aspects of life, she recognised that a more accessible and less expensive way of accommodating people with disabilities through innovation is possible. She decided to quit her day job to pursue PARA-TUBE on a full-time basis. Mavhungu says that it took six years to develop a prototype. One of the biggest challenges that Mavhungu faced in the development was a lack of funding and resources. However, her hard work paid off when she received seed funding from the Technology Innovation Agency in 2017 and Industrial Development Corporation funding for commercialisation and testing in 2019. Together with her partner, Darushna Chellan, the funding they secured allowed them to further develop the product under their newly formed company, PRD Logical Solutions.

Driven by her passion to help others, the Pretoria-born creator says that easily usable technology for disabled people is a space that has been ignored in South Africa. There are many factors when it comes to having a disability — for example, the privilege that one has plays a fundamental role, and access to healthcare, education and employment opportunities all need to be taken into account. Mavhungu’s invention aims to improve the lives of those who use a wheelchair and do not have assistance by providing more independence to disabled people. Her efforts to change the landscape for disabled people has not gone unnoticed and Mavhungu was recognised by the President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2019 for her innovation. Market forces also indicate that this is a product that is desperately needed.

Mavhungu’s advice to young women who want to follow in her footsteps is to believe in yourself no matter what your circumstances are. She says: “There is no such thing as a stupid idea and we should never let our fears and failures become our navigator of life. We are stronger than this.”

There is no such thing as a stupid idea, and we should never let our fears and failures become our navigator of life. We are stronger than that.

Siddika Osman, 43

Siddika Osman, 43

Siddika Osman is the chief executive officer of Nkgwete IT Solutions in Mpumalanga. The company was founded in 2013 with a community-based ethos, offering personal mentorship and training to employees and running internship programmes in association with Microsoft and the Media, Information and Communication Technologies SETA.

With over 25 years of experience in the ICT sector and winning the inaugural Women in Tech Africa 2019 award, Osman’s technical expertise and business acumen are integral to the success of Nkgwete. The CEO attributes these accolades to the confidence she has in her own abilities, despite — more often than not — being the only woman in her position. “When I first started working in ICT, it was a very male-dominated environment. Back in 1996, I was the only female technician. Even when I joined the management team, people always thought I was just there to fill the quota. Yes, I experienced barriers. I just chose not to let the noise drown me out. I let my work ethic speak for itself.”

Osman is proud of the positive changes happening within the industry — from women moving up the corporate ladder and taking on leadership roles to an increased number of female candidates pursuing careers in ICT. Much has been done to champion equitable representation and transformation to unlock South Africa’s potential, but there is still work to be done. Osman believes this work starts at school. “To make inroads in the ICT sector, you need maths, science and ICT as subjects within the education sector. Many of our disadvantaged schools don’t have this. We need to have our youth — especially young girls — understand that there are opportunities out there beyond teaching and nursing.”

To champion this transformation, Nkgwete participates in a corporate social investment programme that incorporates local schools, hospitals, care centres and places of need in communities. “For Mandela Day, we donated laptops and tablets to schools and scheduled a training session with their teachers to show them how to use basic software on the devices.” For Osman, giving is important, but helping these communities understand how to use the technology is the main objective.

If Osman could give any advice to the youth of South Africa, it would be to use technology for good, such as helping create more jobs or making a difference in underprivileged communities. She also encourages hiring managers to look for candidates with skills that go beyond their technical abilities. “To me, business writing and effective communication are far more important skills than technical ability. I’ve always said that I would rather hire for EQ than IQ — attitude over intelligence. The drive to want to learn means more to me than grades.”

Osman believes that the future of South Africa is bright, despite the history and hardships we have faced as a nation. “Technology is a key enabler to propel Africa forward. If we can use technology to innovate, then we can reduce many of the struggles and inequalities we face.”

Technology is a key enabler to propel Africa forward. If we can use technology to innovate, then we can reduce many of the struggles and inequalities we face.

Sindiswa Mzamo, 49

Sindiswa Mzamo, 49

“Women’s Month is a very powerful month,” says Sindiswa Mzamo, affectionately known as Madam President or simply Sindi. “We are celebrating mam’ Charlotte Maxeke’s 150th year, a gentle giant, the first black woman graduate from South Africa. We stand on her shoulders. If mam’ Charlotte didn’t sacrifice, then I shouldn’t be speaking this English that I’m using now. Her legacy must rise and live on through us as women and leaders,” she says. And so it does, through Mzamo. She was the ambassador for African Utilities Week for four years, travelling across the continent, attending conferences and building networks. A conversation with Patrice Motsepe and an experience at the World Economic Forum encouraged Mzamo to start her own venture.

“When you attend international platforms, you are often asked to speak on a particular agenda as an expert,” Mzamo says. “When you are an expert in finance, you must go and speak about finance. You cannot speak about developmental issues because already the programme is designed to include people who can speak on that. Every time when I’m sitting on these international platforms, African women know very little,” she says. The underrepresentation of African women on international platforms is multifaceted and Mzamo believes that mentorship is important in equipping African women for these spaces. Mzamo has mentored more than 100 women across the continent and encourages gender inclusion rather than gender equality. “When it’s gender equality, I’m in my position and I’m not going to go and ask anybody. You’re given an opportunity, that’s gender equality. You fail sitting in your chair,” she explains. “At the Circle of Global Business Women, we speak about gender inclusion. When you speak about inclusion, it’s easier for me to say to you I’ve been trying to speak to my team, but I see you are thriving in your own division. What is it that you are doing right that I am doing wrong? And then you’ll empower me to help my team,” she says.

Recently, Mzamo has led the collaboration between the Circle of Global Business Women and the Directors Association, an organisation that provides training for executive positions. Together, they have developed a programme, Madam Chair, which trains women exclusively for executive positions. “Our trainees have to do a practical by serving on the board of an NGO for one year so that they can understand the ins and outs of a board to qualify as a board member,” she says.

Launched last year, the programme has already trained 20 women and will train a further nine starting in mid-August after the Directors Association and the Circle of Global Business Women agreed to extend their partnership for a second year. “Women were badly affected by Covid, but when you go through a storm you must take an analysis of everything that you see in the storm itself — these are lessons that will strengthen you after. We got a financial management webinar, marketing and business development webinar and an international trade webinar and from these sessions, understood that we’re in a global village and collaboration is the new competition,” she says.

I choose to challenge women to take their rightful positions in the marketplace, and lead with integrity and dignity.

Thandeka Ndlovu-Mngomezulu, 38

Thandeka Ndlovu-Mngomezulu, 38

As a qualified accountant, helping people to manage their money more effectively influences everything that Thandeka Ndlovu-Mngomezulu touches.

She’s the founder and chief executive of Total Serve Facilities Management (TSFM), but that’s just one of her various initiatives. She’s also an adviser to the first company she created, Thasola Consulting, and her charity, the Ink Foundation. She financially supports the under-resourced school where her mother teaches in KwaMashu, her home township. She has two children and is married to her partner.

Most of her time is spent on TSFM, which manages and maintains properties in KwaZulu-Natal and is expanding into Gauteng. Before launching it, she enrolled in property and development programmes and studied facilities management to learn the trade in this competitive sector, traditionally dominated by large companies such as Bidvest.

At first she won a few short-term maintenance contracts, but it took her more than two years to win any major deals. “It was a trying time, but I didn’t give up because I knew the bigger picture would happen in the long term,” she says.

Ndlovu-Mngomezulu now has 560 employees and has morphed TSMF into a passion project as well as a business entity. She loves employing women from underprivileged communities and training them to operate successfully in property management. New employees are asked where they see themselves in three to five years, and those with a willingness to learn are enrolled in its skills training programme.

“There’s very much of a social impact to it,” she says. “A lot of employment has been created and, through upskilling, people who started as cleaners are now receptionists or administrators. That’s a more fulfilling journey than just profit-seeking.”

When Investec’s Global Exposure campaign noticed her work, Ndlovu-Mngomezulu won a visit to Germany to see how similar companies operate, overcome challenges and use technology to help them. “It was an important milestone for me to go overseas and learn what companies like mine are doing,” she says.

Her three- to five-year plan is to bring in partners, then exit the operational side and stay involved as an adviser. “I’m a person who always wants to grow new companies, and I’d like to be an adviser to property developers,” she says.

She created Thasola Consulting when she left the corporate world in 2012, and funded it by cashing in her pension. It offers bookkeeping, accounting and compliance services to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses. Its financial readiness programme prepares them to apply for loans or other external funding. It teaches people to be disciplined about their finances, because potential backers will analyse how well an entrepreneur manages their private finances before they invest in their business.

Ndlovu-Mngomezulu moved back in with her parents to economise when she started her own ventures, but the banks initially didn’t believe in her. Fortunately, when she needed cash to grow, her family and friends had faith in her abilities.

“I always say be ready, because you never know when opportunity knocks,” she says. “If anybody wants to invest in you, make it easy to do so by taking your business seriously.”

Everybody starts from somewhere. We don’t all start from the same platform, but if you are serious you will get there.

Nobukhosi Dlamini, 39

Nobukhosi Dlamini, 39

Nobukhosi Dlamini has had a career spanning 16 years in the tech industry and says she always found the “boys’ club” perception quite strange. “There really isn’t anything inherent in tech that should intimidate women [and dissuade them] from pursuing a career in tech.” But she admits that there were times when she was the only woman in the room and says that this is something she is passionate about changing.

Dlamini has worked for top global multinationals, deploying internal software systems and managing big mergers and acquisitions, as well as dealing with the difficult and high-pressure work of merging systems and migrating large amounts of data. “I’ve also run my own company for four years, which was something I always wanted to do, and it has been a scary and exhilarating experience. My company, Bahati Tech, focuses on deploying data protection, cybersecurity services and technology to create a safe cyberspace.”

Dlamini also launched the GIFT Foundation, which is aimed at making tech an accessible career choice for women from informal settlements and rural areas. “With the GIFT Foundation, we take girls and women who have never touched a computer and teach them computing from the very basics up to the level where they can access an entry-level tech job.” Since the start of the pandemic, the GIFT Foundation’s digital enablement programme has given 120 rural and township-based small business owners, many of whom are women, digital tools to help pivot their business strategies. This has been especially impactful, as it has allowed small business owners to not only continue operating, but to also grow and expand their business footprint — even during the Covid-19 pandemic. “We are in the final stages of expanding this programme to reach 120 more rural-based business owners in the next few weeks.” Through her networks and relationships, Dlamini and her foundation have also helped Bahati alumni and small business owners in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng who have been severely affected by the recent looting and violence.

Dlamini and her company have recently won a number of awards — one being the US state department’s TechWomen Award, and she was invited to spend five weeks in Silicon Valley with 100 other science, technology, engineering and mathematics industry leading women from around the world. “In this programme, I was able to visit well-known companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Airbnb, Adobe etcetera, and have personal interactions with senior executives to learn more about their journeys and how they view the industry and where it’s going.”

Last year, Dlamini was also selected for the Eisenhower Fellowship Women Leaders award. “These fellowships have also helped me grow an international network of people in general, and women in particular, who are now on speed dial and who I can engage with regularly in order to develop and support my strategies.” Dlamini says that the experience helped her develop confidence in her career and helped her understand what makes a successful tech start-up.

Speaking on the legacy she hopes to leave behind, Dlamini says she would like to help as many rural and township-based women to access tech careers as possible. She believes that tech is a great tool for empowerment, helping people improve their lives and creating value for themselves and their communities, while accelerating access to information and education. “There is no reason women in our communities cannot be trained to access global careers. The educational resources are available and our young people are definitely talented enough to access it. I am deeply troubled by the high youth unemployment rate in this country. It keeps me awake at night.” Through the GIFT Foundation and Bahati Tech, Dlamini aims to provide talented youth who do not have work experience with opportunities and training, and to position them for employment in large companies both locally and virtually. “I really believe that the work that I do is meaningful and makes a difference,” says Dlamini.

There is no reason why women in our communities cannot be trained to access global careers. The educational resources are available, and our young people are definitely talented enough to access them.

Daniela Bascelli, 44

Daniela Bascelli, 44

Daniela Bascelli was nothing short of excited when the internet became available in South Africa. She adapted easily to it and as the online world grew, she kept up with its transitions, trends and how to provide value through monetising business time with strategic applications that build digital marketing ecosystems.

This was not solely for businesses to profit; it includes social movements used as online vehicles to create an impact through the online influence they garner. By working with a solid digital and social media marketing strategy, their needs can be expertly planned and tailored to their objectives and budgets.

Over the years, Bascelli has facilitated training and keynote speaking on these topics in global forums to share her wealth of knowledge. She believes businesses, especially in South Africa and other African countries, do not always have the financial resources to create a solid digital marketing strategy, nor can they usually sustain outsourced marketing strategy beneficiation exercises; this can hamper their digital transformation, and impact profit margins and, ultimately, their growth.

Through her personal brand, Bascelli has had the privilege of working with many dynamic individuals and business owners, helping them to attain their goals. She says this is the most rewarding aspect of what she does: “Helping others is what drove me to learn my craft as best I could, while still pursuing a career in technology and business development.”

Growing up with epilepsy and the stigma that came along with it, Bascelli soon learnt that her differences actually enabled her to better understand the world and the people in it. “People carry so much potential in all facets of life. I believe that all people are unique and carry goodness in their souls. I encourage and pursue a life of doing good and helping others where they cannot always help and support themselves in life’s different and very often tragic circumstances.”

When she first started working in digital marketing, there were no South African organisations through which to learn more about online marketing. This impacted digital transformation within the business sector. Bascelli has used this gap to train and empower more than 10 000 people globally in the past decade of her career. It was especially important for South African SMEs to take advantage of the social media tools available to develop their businesses successfully and confidently.

Bascelli has vast experience in digital and strategic marketing, and uses her experience to continue creating and developing digital marketing strategies that run seamlessly. She urges the younger generation to take advantage of the power of the internet and encourages everyone to be continuous learners. She concludes: “We need to work together, collaborate and help wherever possible in this new world of work in order for mankind to survive and thrive.”

I encourage and pursue a life of doing good and helping others where they cannot always help and support themselves in life’s different and very often tragic circumstances.

Esha Mansingh, 35

Esha Mansingh, 35

At 35, Esha Mansingh has been able to achieve many impressive career and personal milestones. Through her work at global logistics giant, Imperial, she has been able to introduce and formalise a number of woman-centred programmes and initiatives, as well as create opportunities for women in a male-dominated corporate world.

As an accomplished 21st century woman, Mansingh has held many titles: executive vice-president of corporate affairs and investor relations; TV presenter; award-winning journalist; wife; and mother. While much of her success is down to her determination and focus, Mansingh is grateful for her supportive family, husband, colleagues and supervisors who have given her the freedom, choice and opportunity to live a full and balanced life. She hopes, through the woman-centric work she champions, to be able to emulate the support she has received and build foundations for the advancement of women across Europe and Africa.

As vice-president of corporate affairs and investor relations at Imperial Logistics, Mansingh’s primary roles include investor relations, media liaison, communications, sustainability, environment, social and corporate governance, and integrated reporting. Through these roles, as well as through her role as chairperson and founder of Imperial’s Global Women’s Forum, she seeks to weave a female-led ethos throughout Imperial’s regional structures.

Through Imperial’s CSI, Mansingh has supported and guided programmes that improve and provide access to healthcare, education, skills development, road safety and women empowerment, as well as supporting women in sport. Through the Global Women’s Forum, she has worked to improve the standing of female Imperial employees by implementing initiatives such as workplace breastfeeding clinics, self-defence programmes and female driver programmes, aimed at increasing the representation of women in the Imperial trucking and driving force. She has also spearheaded a confidential helpline apparatus for women working at Imperial — called [email protected] — aimed at creating a safe and supportive environment for women to report and find solutions to issues they may face in both their professional and personal lives.

Mansingh has led a number of external Imperial initiatives around sport, including sponsorships and fundraising initiatives. Because of her work, Imperial is the first corporate sponsor of the Lions provincial women’s cricket team, as well as the gsport African Women in Sport awards.

Additionally, Mansingh has been at the forefront of two programmes aimed at addressing the scourge of gender-based violence in South Africa. The first of these is an initiative to collaboratively compile rape kits for rape survivors as a means of showing support and ensuring justice is served. The second initiative is Imperial’s sport partnerships, the first of which is with the Wanderers cricket stadium to host the pink Friday cricket match to raise awareness about gender-based violence, and the second is a partnership with Central Gauteng Lions to raise funds for People Opposing Women Abuse.

Through the work she has done, Mansingh has shown how to use corporate power and influence to improve the lives of the women in her business, as well as in the broader community. She embodies the ideal of holding the door open behind you once you have made it into a position of power.

Mansingh has shown how to use corporate power and influence to improve the lives of the women in her business, as well as in the broader community.