Meet the former hairstylist who used R80 000 to start a beauty business that’s now worth R2,5 million and growing

Mabel Ledwaba, founder of Havilla Beauty
Mabel Ledwaba, founder of Havilla Beauty

Having grown up in Atteridgeville, Pretoria, Mabel says beauty saved her from unsavoury experiences.

"You know the challenges of growing up in the township, I don't think I had a lot of those challenges because during my weekends I was just doing people's hair," says Mabel. "It just got me engaged, and it kept me out of the streets and out of any mischief." 

Mabel says she had very supportive parents and because they were elderly, with her father being a pensioner, she often used the money she earned from her clients to help run their household.

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Entrepreneurship was a natural progression for her. "I can't say I knew I was going to have my own business, but I was already running a business, so I think it kicked in naturally. My mother was an entrepreneur as well, and she sold chickens and some other items, so I grew up seeing that business is livelihood," she says.

After finishing matric, Mabel sought out some industry experience in the beauty space and acquired a cosmotology qualification. She ended up assuming hairstylist roles, followed by a retail profession at one of South Africa's largest retail conglomerates. 

It was after this job that she started her locally-based business, Havilla Beauty, using R80 000 capital.

Today, the business is worth R2,5 million and has a presence in Botswana, Lesotho and Zambia in addition to South Africa.

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Mabel's beauty company, which started from offering nail and lash services, now features products with a particular focus on developing full quality coverage and waterproof makeup.

The company imports ingredients from Germany and uses these to create makeup which is suitable for darker African skin types.

The company also has a skincare range and hosts classes from aspirant beauty professionals.

Mabel is inspired by her elder sister who is very determined, loves the finer things in life and always does her best in everything she is involved in.

"I just love her approach in life. She inspired me to always say, 'when I grow up I also don't want to settle for less, I want to go for the best'," Mabel explains.

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Mabel has had challenges in her business, and only saw it becoming sustainable after almost a decade. She shares that it was mainly because at times people refused to acknowledge her business as credible.

She explains, "When you are black and have a makeup product people already think it is inferior."

Sharing one piece of advice for upcoming entrepreneurs, Mabel says there's very little that beats being able to sell your product.

"You must have a passion for selling, she says, you can have a product, and it can be an excellent product, but if you cannot sell your product, forget it. I come across a lot of people who say, 'I love beauty, I want to be a makeup artist. I want to do your kind of business'. I say, 'okay, start selling.'"

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