Perseverance propels DJ Zinhle during pandemic

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DJ Zinhle will soon launch an eyewear line. Picture: Sheila Afari (SAG)
DJ Zinhle will soon launch an eyewear line. Picture: Sheila Afari (SAG)

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Entrepreneur DJ Zinhle sees the world through rose-tinted glasses. Well, to be more precise, some of these glasses are glossy black, others have animal prints and some are slanted in the cat-eye style.

Her accessories brand, Era by DJ Zinhle, is widely known for themed timepieces, but she is gearing up to release an eyewear range under this umbrella. That diversity speaks to the kind of year the disc jockey-turned-entrepreneur, whose real name is Ntombezinhle Jiyane, has been having – she had to realign her vision. “My team and I speak about vision all the time,” she shares at a brunch celebrating her newest chart-topping single, Indlovu, featuring Loyiso Gijana.

“We speak about our values and what we’re trying to achieve because I have been in this space now where I feel like whatever vision I have manifests.”

It may have taken seven years for DJ Zinhle’s vision of selling eyewear to manifest, but she, like the rest of us, had no idea this year would be turned upside down by a global health pandemic. She still managed to dream big and bring more parts of her vision to life.

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During the country’s strictest levels of the Covid-19-enforced lockdown, she took some time away from her businesses to help South Africans turn their bedrooms into dance floors with online parties.

Her PJ Party livestreaming later became MTV Base shows. She had already kitted out her own home and the homes of others with unique furniture pieces following the launch of her Jiyane Atelier interior decor business.

Under the strict lockdown levels, the sale of liquor was banned. But as soon as the restrictions were relaxed, this year’s Forbes Africa entertainer of the year announced she had acquired a stake in Boulevard Rosé, a French sparkling wine brand, and was its new CEO.

At the core of who I am, I am a deejay
DJ Zinhle

“The Boulevard deal took a year and it just made sense. It required a different level of me. I worked at SA Breweries for three years and that understanding [of the market] allowed me to make sense of things,” she says. 

With two major revenue streams – liquor and live events – restricted, DJ Zinhle had to be resourceful.

“What [sector] is actually pandemic proof?” she laughs. “I don’t even know if I have the answers now.

“At the core of who I am, I am a deejay. But it’s easy for me to decide what I work on outside of that because it has to be authentic to me. I am trying to create a value chain.

“For example, we are here celebrating Indlovu and Boulevard is being served. People are wearing my sunglasses and they would be sitting on Jiyane Atelier chairs if we had them here.

“I make decisions based on what I’m passionate about because I can’t work otherwise. I feel like that’s what they mean when they say, ‘do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’. Because my team and I work. We work!”


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