Innovating with the right mentorship is key

Unathi Tunzelana (43) and Dr Sibongiseni Tunzelana (35).
Unathi Tunzelana (43) and Dr Sibongiseni Tunzelana (35).

Cape Town - Mentorship is the cornerstone to building a successful career as an entrepreneur, according to the founders of FlavaLite Innovations.

Creators of FlavaLite Innovations Unathi Tunzelana (43) and Dr Sibongiseni Tunzelana (35) went to the UK in 2014 as part of the MEDO entrepreneur incubator bootcamp, an experience that expanded their horizons and taught them how to take their business to the next level. 

The sisters shared their UK experience with Fin24:

"On our United Kingdom trip we learnt to present with precision and confidence, quality planning and time management skills, among other things. The trip was fruitful for our company and it was a great opportunity.

We learnt how to do an elevator pitch and how to do an effective, efficient five minute presentation. They taught us the importance of timing your presentation and being early. For example, when a person was one minute late, they were sent home from the South African Bootcamp preparing for London. If a person went over their five minute slot, they were stopped mid-sentence.

We are grateful to MEDO and the department of trade and industry ICT Youth Incubator programme for affording us the opportunity. We are more confident and we can measure that significant growth the bootcamp has added to our business strategy and pitching skills.

We also experienced the Coventry University, which was impressive. They were UK’s number one university in 2014, according to UK’s Mail and Guardian. They lead in many aspects as an institution and they are very innovative. The quality of their entrepreneurs is admirable."

Read: Entrepreneur tour visits Port Elizabeth

Fin24 Q&A

What does FlavaLite Innovations do?

Unathi: It is a Digital Analytics company that provides an end-to-end story in marketing and my contribution is more off line. The same people we speak to online are the same offline so our marketing strategy tends to be comprehensive.

Sibongiseni: FlavaLite Innovations is an ICT company that specialises in Digital Analytics and Electronic Ticketing services to companies with a digital presence or intending on having a digital presence requiring measuring and monitoring.

What are the stumbling blocks that you encountered when you started the business?

Unathi: The fact that we still have to educate companies that they need our services. That becomes time consuming in itself before we actually deliver the service.

Sibongiseni: Funding and capacity challenges are still persistent. We are working with our mentors to minimise these issues.

How did you fund your business start-up?

Unathi: Winning competitions helped a lot, especially with equipment.

Sibongiseni: We the entered SAB KickStart Competition and we won. We then grew organically from there. We had to get Clients and work. We invested profits back into the business. 

Did you face any red tape? If, so, how did you overcome it?

Unathi: Being a new comer providing rare skills can be daunting. We had to under price ourselves till we got word out there that we exist and we are good at what we do.

Sibongiseni: There is a lot of red tape in business, especially in the Western Cape; we just needed to understand how long dependencies take and find ways to deal with ‘the mean time’. We also collaborate with other established and experienced businesses for growth.

Who inspired you? Did you or do you have any mentors who have helped you in your journey? If so, how has that shaped you as individuals?

Unathi: My mom, Nomava Mercy Tunzelana, and Billy Selekane, who is the best speaker in Africa and the busiest person around, but he always makes time to speak life to our business. I am a spiritual person who looks more inward and to nature for inspiration than to mentors. I get inspired by the artistry of Bobby McFerrin and books by Eckhart Tolle. I am guided by the still small voice.    

Sibongiseni: I have many leaders who inspire me in business and spiritually. They include my mom, Lenhle Khoza, Billy Selekane, Julie Lenzer Kirk, Dr Zoliswa Sidzumo Mali, professor Ojelanki Ngwenyama, Michelle Robertson and Pamela Ngcakani. These leaders have made time to add value in my life by guiding me and having my best interests at heart. When I am stuck in life, they assist me in getting ‘unstuck’.


How important is mentorship in general?

Unathi: It is important especially for entrepreneurs who have these great ideas and no way of funding them. Mentors can help bring them back to earth.  Some people need them more than others.

Sibongiseni: Mentorship and coaching are critical for young people, especially entrepreneurs. Mentorship helps us to network more efficiently and effectively. We also minimise on mistakes because we learn through the wisdom of our mentors and coaches in other instances. We are also assisted by our mentors to plan ahead, so that we may leave a legacy.

I have been supported by professor Ojelanki Ngwenyama at Ryerson University in Canada, working towards being the first black female to obtain a PhD in information systems majoring in digital analytics. I had to endure cold weathers and long hours in becoming an expert in this subject area.

My PhD mentor, together with my ICT mentor Julie Lenzer Kirk from the US were able to assist in arranging a trip to Google's head office in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, so that I could network with the best in the analytics industry. I then mentor other young women who would like to eventually obtain their PhD qualifications in their areas of choice, while adding value, practically, in their respective fields.

On building lasting relationships, Dr Sibongiseni says:

"I would encourage young entrepreneurs to build relationships wherever they find themselves. They need to continuously learn and do research pertaining to their business and their industry. They must get a mentor and a coach.

The relationships that we have formulated through the programme are timeless. The wisdom of learning to close deals, to network and to understand the business context through current research is important and will have long term effect in our personal lives and business."

Recent accolades:

•Overall Award winner of the Opel Astra: New and Innovative Business Award - October 2014
•Bronze Award winner for Ulwazi (Wisdom) category Black Business Quarterly (BBQ) Awards - October 2014
•Top 10 in the SiMODISA Start Up Business Competition: the whole of Africa -  October 2014
•Featured in the Destiny Magazine Power of 40 Report (Women Achievers under 40) - November 2014

Dr Sibongiseni Tunzelana receiving the Opel Astra New and Innovative Business Award.

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