Being a powerful woman is only valid if you use that power to help other women; Fortune uses her work in public relations and events management to champion the development and talent of women, who are frequently sidelined in these male-dominated industries.
Armed with just R1 000 in her pocket, a laptop and a cellphone, and sitting on her bedroom floor, Farah Fortune famously started African Star Communications in 2008.
Over a decade later, African Star is one of the continent’s leading public relations and events management companies; it boasts musicians AKA and Cassper Nyovest; actresses Pam Andrews and Terry Pheto; Miss SA 2007 Tansey Coetzee; presenter and MC Liezel van der Westhuizen; model and footballer Ryan Botha; radio host Mpho Madise (Mo-G); and comedian Jason Goliath on its long list of high-profile clients.
The company has also worked with various corporations such as Ice Watch; African Romance for Miss World 2008; a Special Olympics Campaign; the Coca-Cola Confederations Cup 2009; Vuvuzela Eat & Sleep; Nandos Peri-Deli; and The Dudu Zuma Foundation.
Fortune says African Star was born out of the need for more women-owned and managed PR firms in the country. African Star only hires women, as they have fewer opportunities in the world. This is a deliberate move by the company, which aims to break the barriers of entry into male-dominated industries.
“I want to create a legacy of being a change-maker, not just within my industry, but [also] within the realms of possibilities for women. I want to make sure women are no longer underpaid, overworked and under-valued. I want to be remembered as the woman who opened doors for other women.”
Creating jobs and watching people’s dreams come true through the work of African Star is one of her proudest achievements. Creating a women-only work environment is another achievement Fortune is proud of.
“I knew if I didn’t create my space no one would create it for me,” she says.
“Being a powerful woman is only valid if you use that power to help other women,” she continues.
Apart from her day job leading a reputable pan-African PR firm, Fortune is also a sought-after public speaker who was recently invited to speak about her work at TEDX Port Elizabeth.
Fortune has also received numerous awards, including being listed in the Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans in 2011; in 2012 she was featured in the Annual Cool & Black Directory. She was also named as one of the Top 50 Most Impactful Social Innovators (Global Listing) by World CSR Day and World Sustainability.
Giving back to the community remains close to her heart and this year for her birthday she made a pledge to raise R100 000 from donations to assist young girls from disadvantaged communities in three cities with sanitary pads — and she reached that goal.
“My daughter is my biggest driver: I’m building to make sure she has an example of what hard work, tenacity and ambition can get you. It’s important to me,” she says.