On top of the entrepreneur

2011-09-10 13:25

The first thing that will impress you about Dr Nondumiso Mzizana, this year’s winner of the Businesswoman of the Year award in the Entrepreneur category, is that she’s very frank.

Mzizana is the founder and president of Sikelela Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical Suppliers, which specialises in supplying high-end equipment and devices.

A dentist by profession, she started the business nine years ago using a R100 000 package she received from Medunsa, where she had been a lecturer, and a R30 000 bank overdraft.

On this hot Friday afternoon in Menlyn Park, Tshwane, Mzizana is winding down a whirlwind of a week following her win, with media interview requests coming from all fronts.

“I’ve been in business for nine years and I’ve never had so much media attention,” she points out giggling as she joins me in the stylishly decorated boardroom.

“It just shows you what winning an award like this does for one’s profile.

“I’ve even had calls from as far as Nigeria from people who want to do business with me.”

When Mzizana started Sikelela, which means “blessing”, in 2002, she operated the business from her dentistry practice in Barclays Square, Pretoria.

“When we started, it was just myself and two sales agents. My office space was divided into two – Sikelela at the front and my practice at the back,” she says laughing.

“We did what we had to because we couldn’t afford additional office spaces.”

It was only after four years of operating that the company broke even. By that time, it had extended its reach to include clients from outside Gauteng and South Africa.

Today, Sikelela has carved out a niche for itself – it is the sole distributor of Phillips equipment in South Africa. The company has two offices – one in Pretoria and the other in Pietermartizburg, the base of the KwaZulu-Natal
health department.

Government is Sikelela’s biggest client, therefore proximity to its offices is essential.

Sikelela is also the sole supplier of the Immediate Release Patch, which is a unique cardiology device used in the correction of particular heart defects.

The company employs 25 youngsters, of whom 23 are women. This, says Mzizana, is her contribution to addressing the shortage of women in the field.

She has also launched a bursary for poor but academically gifted young women interested in being medical technicians.

A born-again Christian and member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Mzizana is very conscious of her image, and the people and organisations she associates herself with.

It is therefore not surprising when she asks what the purpose of the interview is and in which section of the newspaper the article is going to appear.

She tells me she turned down an interview request from a Sunday tabloid because it’s important for her to be “very selective” about where she appears.

Part of that decision has to do with wanting to be a role model for all young women – particularly those in business – and her three young sons, who are her biggest fans.

“I love my boys and love spending time with them, particularly going to the movies. For me, it is an opportunity to get into their world better and enjoy what they like,” she says.

Although she is very proud of her achievements, it is clear that Mzizana is not surprised by them either. The first of four children, she hails from a family of achievers in Mthatha in Eastern Cape.

Her late father was an economics lecturer at the University of Zululand and her mother is an educationist.

Her siblings – two sisters (one of them deceased) and a brother – comprise a paediatrician, an attorney and an IT specialist “who are all very accomplished in their own right”, she says.

She matriculated from Holy Cross High School in Mthatha and received a bursary from the government of the then Transkei, which funded all pupils going into the medical field.

“I finished my course in record time,” she adds proudly.

She describes herself as a born entrepreneur, and says she learnt her sales and marketing skills from watching her mother sell perfumes when she was young.

At junior primary school, she decided to start selling oranges. This continued even throughout her schooling at Holy Cross, where she got other children to sell sweets for her.

Like most professional women, Mzizana’s life is a constant effort to balance work, family and “me time”. Her spare time comprises going quad-biking with her family and visiting wildlife parks.

She’s health conscious and recently traded her gym at home for group classes at a Virgin Active, which she says are more fun and interactive.

Married for 15 years, she has no illusions about the importance of still looking good, which is evident from how she’s dressed: a crisp, white shirt paired with form-fitting black pants; and black and white heels, which are highlighted by her bright-red painted toes. Her long hair is combed back to hang over her shoulders.

As for her plans, Mzizana has her eyes set on expanding Sikelela’s footprint to include a third branch in Western Cape.

She’s growing her technical department at the moment and is exploring the possibility of opening up a manufacturing facility.

Her passion is creating employment and opening up avenues for the poor.

Nominee criteria for the award

»?Must conduct business in SA

»?Must control a budget expenditure of R50 million
or more

»?R75 million or more for the Corporate category

»?R35 million or more for the Entrepreneurial category

»?Must have been working for her current company for a minimum of three years, but not necessarily in the same position

»?Must have demonstrated her ability to achieve business success
»?Must be a role model

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