Caring women entrepreneurs 'must set boundaries'

Cape Town – Women business owners must balance being caring to their employees with making their business thrive and setting clear boundaries to ensure both can occur.

That’s the message from Michelle Gasnola, a female entrepreneur operating in a male-dominated industry. Based in Parow, near Cape Town, GMN Panel beaters is a growing business that Gasnola started in 2009.

Gasnola is part of the Sanlam Enterprise Supplier Development Programme, which supports the strategic growth and development of small and medium enterprises linked to Sanlam’s supply chain and distribution networks.

WATCH: When women take charge in a man’s world

Gasnola said women show more mercy and grace towards employees, but there need to be boundaries.

“Women show more mercy and grace towards employees. We tend to value them, irrespective of their mistakes, because we all make mistakes. I also make mistakes.

“Women give a little more care and consideration in the workplace,” she said. “I think about that man, with his wife and kids. He might make mistakes, but I wouldn’t want his kids to suffer because of his mistakes.

“So I have to solve the problem by mentoring this employee and make him understand… I am not only your employer, but also a mother and psychologist.”

Setting the right boundaries

However, she drew a line in the sand. "It’s important to show mercy, but to a certain extent," she said. “Don’t come and steal from me. If you steal, can you trust that person? There are boundaries.

“If you are at work every day, you’re on time, you’re productive, you show dedication, you’re committed, respectful and obedient, then you are making me happy,” she said. “If you make me happy, I will make you happy by rewarding you accordingly.”

WATCH: A look inside Gasnola's world of panel beating


Balancing act

"There is also another side of me, where I know I have to look after my business so that it stays on track," she said. "It’s a scale that I have to balance every day. I care a lot about my business, and I care a lot about my employees.”

Gasnola said there are some men who underestimate women. “We are actually a very strong species,” she said.” Just the fact that we can bear a child, it says a lot about us.”  

Her tip to other women wanting to start a business is that it is not easy. “You’re going to have patience, you shouldn’t give up, you must persevere, you must be goal driven and you must go for it,” she said. “You can make a success if you want to achieve it. It’s all about what you put in.”


Michelle Gasnola ... “I don’t believe in giving up. I believe in pushing through, because I know there will be a silver lining and there will be light at the end of the tunnel.” (Photo: Matthew le Cordeur)

* August is Women's Month and Fin24, in collaboration with the Sanlam Enterprise Supplier Development Programme, invites you to help us celebrate and showcase SA's extraordinary women in business.

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