Despite having turned the ailing, loss-making company she bought in 2010 into a highly successful business with an Africa-wide footprint and a multi-million rand turnover, when entrepreneur Muriel Jansen received an invitation to enter the Standard Bank Top Women Awards earlier this year, she initially brushed it off.
"I read the criteria and looked through the list of the past winners, and thought ‘What do they want with me?'" she explains with a laugh. "I don’t see myself as anything other than a hardworking businesswoman, someone who loves what she does. Entrepreneurship is not a competition for me, it is in my DNA."
Clearly the judges saw something in Jansen, because this Blackheath-based entrepreneur walked away with first place in the highly coveted category of ‘Fastest Growing Female-owned SMME’ at the prestigious Top Women awards held at Emperor’s Palace recently.
The award Jansen received recognised women-owned and managed businesses with an annual turnover between R5 000 000 and R35 000 000. Of hundreds of entries, her company Tracktone was chosen as a Finalist together with six other formidable businesses, namely Enspired Women, Just Palm, SmartHome Connect, Vuma Reputation Management, Ditsogo Project Engineering and Nihka Technology Group.
The recognition was especially gratifying considering that Jansen has faced significant health challenges over the past twelve months, including a lengthy stay in hospital for a bypass to try to maintain healthy blood flow to her stomach.
"Winning this award feels like validation because I made a conscious choice not to lie down, but to get up and fly in spite of all my health issues. This means the world to me. I specifically have to thank my son and staff for keeping everything together during my absence," she says.
Jansen started out as an employee in the company she now owns, having gradually moved up the ranks to become a shareholder before buying out her partners in 2010. The company sources, packages and distributes printer cartridges and a range of stationery, PC hardware and related products to a large national retailer and numerous other corporate clients.
Recent expansion has seen the company become the preferred supplier to large retail in Namibia, Zambia and Angola.
Jansen also runs a second business that offers branding and corporate gifting solutions, with a growing footprint across the Western, Southern and Eastern Cape and a client list that includes Distell, Capitec and Sun International.
Health issues aside, this entrepreneur doesn’t believe in slowing down as long as there is opportunity out there. She commutes constantly between Cape Town, Johannesburg, Namibia, Zambia and Angola, usually accompanied by her son and Operations Manager Kieran Jansen.
When asked how she maintains her energy and enthusiasm in spite of such a gruelling schedule, she says: "In life one chooses to be a victim or a survivor. One thing that really drives me is my wish to spread the entrepreneurial spirit among our youth (girls especially), both to help grow our economy and also to empower the next generation to decide their own future.
"I have a huge desire to give back and share what I have learned with young kids, to teach them that there is an alternative to just joining the hordes of job-seekers when they graduate. I believe entrepreneurship can change the fortunes of our nation for the better, I am living proof of this!"
Jansen is always open to speaking at schools and women’s events about her journey as an entrepreneur. To contact her, send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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