In 2021, Refilwe Xaba was selected as one of the South African candidates to join the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s entrepreneurship programme, commonly known as TEF Connect.
In partnership with Google, TEF Connect selects promising entrepreneurial individuals from Africa to participate in the valuable programme. This is where Xaba’s haircare line, GloLooks, was shortlisted as a successful entrepreneurship, enabling her to compete in a pitch competition for $5 000 (about R83 500) in prize money, which she won.
“What I am most proud of is that I applied for the programme in 2019, at the beginning of my business journey, and I was unsuccessful. I came back in 2021, not only having implemented the changes that the adjudicators had advised, but also with a renewed mindset,” she says.
This mindset and second chance changed how Xaba viewed herself.
“Competing with entrepreneurs from across Africa made me realise the magnitude of my potential and my achievements. It boosted my confidence and assured me that I can trade beyond the borders of South Africa. I have since acquired my export certificate and enrolled for an export readiness course. I believe that GloLooks is an international brand that can compete on any stage.”
This was not the first time that Xaba rose to the challenge and came to the realisation that on the other side of fear and doubt lies endless possibility and opportunity. Xaba completed a leadership exchange programme through the University of the Free State, hosted at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
The training focused on diversity, student leadership, citizenship and innovation. In one of these training sessions, a facilitator noticed that Xaba was holding back and encouraged her to share her views.
“He said that I must speak up because I have valuable insight to share. He went on to stress that I earned my seat and that I worked hard to be there and deserved to take part in every moment of the experience. That completely changed my life forever,” she says.
“Here I was, a girl from a small town in the Free State, being told that my voice, thoughts and opinions matter by an Ivy League university professor. From that day, I vowed to follow my heart, to speak for what I believe in and to remind others like me that their voices, thoughts and opinions matter. We can compete on any stage, regardless of our backgrounds and where we come from.”
Xaba adds: “If you want to empower and equip an adult for the future, you have to start in the early childhood development phase. I have read that the first 1 000 days of a child’s life shape their lifelong potential.
Adequate healthcare, good nutrition, quality child care and a nurturing, clean and safe environment along with early learning and stimulation will have a positive impact on these children by the time they become adults.”